Since March of this year, the world has been turned upside down by COVID-19. The virus has changed the landscape of how people interact, impacting businesses, individuals, and life as a whole for the foreseeable future.
While most of this change has been somewhat negative, a few small positive things have occurred because of coronavirus. From people getting more in touch with nature to a spike in our cooking and cleaning abilities, a few small victories have kept people positive during these trying times.
One of these victories has been a steady decrease in noise pollution, a large cause for hearing loss, since the beginning of COVID-19. New research from The University of Michigan shows that people’s exposure to noise pollution during the early stages of coronavirus has dropped nearly in half.
“That is a huge reduction in terms of exposure and it could have a great effect on people’s overall health outcomes over time,” said Rick Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences at U-M’s School of Public Health. “The analysis demonstrates the utility of everyday use of digital devices in evaluating daily behaviors and exposures.”
During the time that local governments issued stay at home orders in March and April, daily sound levels dropped approximately three decibels. The data was accrued from volunteer Apple Watch users in Florida, New York, California, and Texas and included more than a half million daily noise levels measured during the pandemic.
But what exactly is noise pollution and how does it affect us? Noise pollution is considered to be any unwanted or disturbing sound that affects the health and well-being of humans and other organisms. After studying harmful noises for so many years, we know that any sound above 85 decibels can be potentially harmful to a person’s ears. Some of these noises include airplanes, concerts, construction, heavy machinery, power tools, and more. While it may be impossible to avoid these sounds altogether, constant exposure to them can result in hearing loss, tinnitus, or high levels of stress. Noise pollution impacts millions of people on a daily basis. The most common health problem it causes is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Exposure to loud noise can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress.
Noise pollution not only affects humans, but it also impacts the health and well-being of wildlife. Studies have shown that loud noises can cause caterpillars’ hearts to beat faster and bluebirds to have fewer chicks. Animals use sound for a variety of reasons, including to navigate, find food, attract mates, and avoid predators. Noise pollution makes it difficult for them to accomplish these tasks, which affects their ability to survive.
Also, noise pollution can significantly impact marine life. Whales and dolphins are particularly impacted by noise pollution. These marine mammals rely heavily on echolocation to communicate, navigate, feed, and find mates. Excess noise may interfere with their ability to accomplish all of these tasks.
Because very little is currently being done to stop noise pollution, the task of avoiding these harmful sounds falls squarely on you. To avoid hearing loss caused by noise pollution be aware of noises that can be damaging such as those from heavy machinery, freeway traffic, airport traffic, construction, and overcrowded public areas.
Also, it is important to keep the audio levels of your personal listening devices at a lower level. If you happen to work at a place where there are loud noises, be sure to wear protective earplugs or earmuffs. If you live near a subway, train, or freeway, you might want to consider wearing sleeping earplugs at night.
While noise pollution remains something that is difficult to avoid, it is good news that COVID-19 has cut into our daily dose of noise pollution. While this virus has brought many bad things to us all, it is a welcome bright spot that it could potentially help some people to avoid hearing loss.
If you or anyone you know in the Las Vegas area is suffering from hearing loss, it is important to seek hearing help immediately. Simply signing up for a quick hearing evaluation could have you avoid or better treat your hearing loss which would significantly improve your quality of life.