Say What? The Effects of Noise Pollution On Aging Ears
Has noise become a constant aggravation in your life? From loud neighbors to being out in public places, older Americans are looking for better protections and solutions to noise pollution.
Older lady in a restaurant with a group of friends covering her ears due to loud noise

Are you complaining about loud noise in public places? Are you cringing from music in your favorite restaurant? Are noises driving you nuts and making you feel irritated?

If conversation, music, traffic, and general noise is grating on your nerves, you are not alone. We are living in environments where noise pollution is an increasing problem. Additionally, as we age, hearing sensitivity increases.

In basic terms, it means: More noise. More sensitivity.

What is Noise Pollution?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines noise pollution as “unwanted or disturbing sound.”

Unwanted sound can disturb conversations, sleep, as well as diminish quality of life. It can also have consequences to overall health.

Why is Noise Pollution Important for Seniors?

As we age, hearing changes. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the U.S., according to the CDC. You may have noticed this in ways that affect eating out, sleeping, and general comfort during the day.

• Your favorite restaurant is no longer a good place for conversation. The music sounds like a rock concert.

• Your quiet bedroom is now a symphony of sounds – street noise, neighbors, air traffic, road traffic, and refrigerator humming keeps you awake.

• Your quiet zone is no longer truly quiet. You’re distracted by random noises such as coughing, sneezing, appliance sounds, and paper rustling.

Noise pollution is increasing. Noise sensitivity is also on the rise as we age.

Things that were once pleasurable may have become intolerable. It’s not just the environment, traffic, other people, and poor manufacturing that are to blame. It’s also possible that sounds seem louder and more irritating – because your hearing is changing.

What Are The Benefits of Awareness?

It’s often said, “Awareness is the Master Key.” When you become aware of an issue, you can do something about it.

As you become aware of noise pollution and noise sensitivity due to age, you can do something about it.

If you increase your awareness about noise pollution and hearing loss, you’ll have a greater appreciation for the problem. Plus, you’ll have a much greater motivation to take actions that support your health.

Health and Noise Pollution

The World Health Organization is studying how noise pollution impacts our health:

Sound Perception
With age, our hearing changes. We can lose some of our ability to hear. Sounds can seem abnormally loud. This can cause noise distortion and may be linked with inflammation known as tinnitus.

Spoken Communication
Loud noise can interfere with spoken communication. This can be linked with other issues such as difficulty concentrating, focusing, and expressing ideas. For some people, this may also contribute to a sense of social isolation, distancing affecting self-confidence.

Peaceful Sleep
Looking for a good night’s rest? Environmental noise is most common enemy of peaceful sleep. A good night’s rest supports your overall health and happiness. Without this foundation, you can experience an increase in fatigue, depression, and irritability.

Heart Health
Loud noise can impact the entire nervous system, stressing the heart and lungs. Excessive noise pollution can increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders.

Well-Being
Loud noise can contribute to mental distress. While not a direct cause of mental illness, excessive noise can affect your state of mind.

Memory
Noise can affect our ability to read, comprehend, remember, and perform tasks. Excessive noise can even affect problem-solving skills.

That’s a hefty list of health impacts, don’t you think?

The more you’re exposed to loud noises, the more it can cause permanent hearing damage. That’s why it’s time to notice noise and be proactive about your hearing.

Daily Tips for Healthy Noise

Reduce Bad Noise

Decrease Noise Stimulus
Turn off the radio. Turn off the television. Turn off beeps, alarms, and extra noise. Make an extra effort to turn off noise stimulus and create a soothing environment.

Reduce Noise Agitation
In times of change, noise tends to increase. This can be the case when people visit your home. There may be more noise during the transitions of coming and going. If you have friends, family, or care providers reduce noise impact during transitions.

Check Restaurant Reviews
Going out to eat is meant to be enjoyable, fun, and rewarding. The last thing you want is to feel stress and strain because you can’t hear the person across the table. Eating in a loud restaurant can contribute to feeling anxious. According to Zagat, noise is the top complaint about restaurants. Pick a conversation-friendly restaurant.

Request Private Locations
Some restaurants have specific areas that are quieter and more private. Request to be seated in a quiet area so you can enjoy your time out.

Welcome Good Noise

Not All Noise Is Bad
While we’ve been talking about the irritations of noise pollution, it’s good to recall that not all noise is bad. Some noise is comforting and soothing. Take some time to select music, bird songs, and sounds that you find appealing.

Share Sounds with Friends
Compare favorite music with your friends and family. You may find a new style of music to add to your list.

Explore Background Music
Explore different background music and ambient sounds. This promotes a sense of calm, and can reduce anxiety.

Prepare for Sleep
Take some time to investigate the best sounds for inviting quality sleep. Cello. Rain sounds. Water music. Use soothing sounds to prepare for naps and restful sleep.

Assistance Club Summary

As noise pollution is a real issue, take some time to consider how to reduce the impact in your home, life, and adventures. With a little initiative, you can minimize the aggravations, make healthy choices, meet with friends – and enjoy the conversation.