What Are The Harmful Effects Of Noise Pollution?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on September 26 2018 in Environment

Noise pollution can have adverse effects on animals and humans. Editorial credit: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Noise pollution has been a by-product of the growth and development of society. Industries, transport, and urbanization fill the environment with noise, and this change in the acoustic environment of terrestrial and aquatic habitats have adverse impacts on humans and animals. Noise pollutions can even trigger evolutionary changes over long periods of time, as species attempt to adapt themselves to altered levels of noise. A list of some of the effects of noise pollution on human and animal lives is highlighted below.

Noise Pollution Causes Death and Disease in Humans and Animals

Noise can directly impact the health of humans and animals. For example, chronic exposure to noise above the 55 decibels (dB) level can increase the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. According to World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated one million healthy years of life are lost annually in Europe alone due to the adverse effects of traffic noise. The majority of these years lost are due to cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. According to studies, high noise levels trigger the release of stress hormones that damage blood vessels. Animals can also die due to noise pollution for the same reasons. The effect of high decibels on animal health was clearly evident during India's Diwali festival, as pets searched for cover during the fireworks celebration.

Noise Pollution Creates Adverse Changes in Human Behavior

Constant exposure to high noise levels can temporarily or permanently alter human behavior. Children are especially prone to such changes. The learning and behavior of children living in noisy localities are adversely impacted. Research has shown that aircraft noise impacts the reading skill development in children attending schools near busy airports. Exposure to noise is also stressful for adults and has negative impacts on their behavior, which can result in lower levels of patience, irritable behavior, and provoking anger.

Noise Pollution Impacts the Predator-Prey Relationship

Many species of both predators and prey rely on sound in order to catch or evade another animal. For example, dolphins and bats depend on high-frequency sonar to detect the movements of their prey. Many species depend on keen hearing to detect the presence of a predator. When noise created by human activity penetrates the wild environment, it disturbs the natural processes. When this occurs, predators may be unable to successfully locate prey and go hungry, or prey are unable to protect themselves against predators. For example, research has shown that noise produced by ships compromise the anti-predator behavior exhibited by eels and crabs.

Noise Pollution Alters the Behavior of Wildlife

Species do not rely on sound only for catching prey or defending themselves against predators, but also for many other common activities. A range of other behaviors like locating food, finding a mate, and locating an offspring or a parent all depend on sound. Many species like the red deer exhibit their desirability and dominance through vocalizations. Thus, a disturbance due to high noise levels in wild habitats on land or underwater can create great havoc in the lives of these animals. For example, military sonar has been associated with the stranding or beaching of whales on land.

Bird Diversity Is Reduced Due to Noise

Birds often fail to thrive in areas with high noise levels over a long period of time. Fewer birds are thus seen near busy urban areas and roadways where levels of noise are highest. Robins in urban areas have exhibited the behavior of changing their singing times to coincide with quieter periods during the day. Similarly, other birds have shown the ability to raise the frequency of their calls to reduce the masking of their voice by urban noise. However, species that cannot adapt to high noise levels in urban areas may, unfortunately, leave the area. As a result, the diversity of bird species is low in such areas.

More in Environment