It’s not a figment of your imagination. Noise stresses you out.
A 2009 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that aircraft noise caused peoples’ body to release cortisol — a hormone only produced when the body is under stress — even if you don’t consciously hear it. And for every 10 decibels of road traffic noise near your house, you actually increase your risk for heart attack by 12 percent. Road traffic noise is particularly dangerous while you sleep, because it prevents you from getting the rejuvenating rest you need. Even more surprising, a recent study found that elevated traffic noise can actually heighten a child’s risk for developing ADD.
I can attest to my blood pressure levels spiking every morning at 7 a.m. when they started construction work outside my window in my New York City apartment. These days, suburban living is a lot less stress-inducing, though the guttural wails of my 3-year old can produce a similar effect. But what if you still live in the city or on a busy street? What steps can you take to reduce the noise pollution in your life — short of moving?
Here are a few things you can try:
Wear earplugs. Sometimes the best solution can be the least expensive. A simple pair of drugstore earplugs worn while sleeping or any other time at home can significantly reduce the amount of noise that you hear. Though earplugs have been around for centuries, it’s interesting to discover their evolution and their health benefits.
Close the windows. An open window doesn’t only let in a fresh breeze — sometimes it lets in unwanted sounds as well. If you do want to get the fresh air, try to open your windows at quieter times of day, say between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or late in the evening.
Buy a rug or invest in wall-to-wall carpeting. Some people just like the look and feel of hardwood better, especially if you have a pet. However, rugs and carpet can go a long way when it comes to noise reduction, particularly if you have a good pad underneath. If noise is a significant issue for you, it may be something to consider.
Upgrade your insulation. If you’re going to be staying in your house for a long time to come, it may pay to invest in soundproofing. This can mean soundproofing walls or ceilings between floors using insulation, or installing something like double-pane windows that help absorb noise.
Use noise-canceling headphones. They’re more expensive than earplugs, that’s for sure. But a good set is worth the price. Noise-cancelling headphones work by filtering out unwanted noise by absorbing it before it hits your ear.
Install a fence. Really. Outside of your home, you can also invest in some fencing or tall hedging that will actually help to reduce the noise. It has the added bonus of creating a visual oasis. Not only won’t you hear the noise as much, you won’t see what's causing it!
Check out this creative post on clever ways to soundproof your home, and for more info on noise pollution, visit Noise Free America, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness on the subject. Though I still don’t have a good solution to block out the wails of your tantrumming toddler, I can tell you that bribery usually works. Hey, it’s for your health!