Noise Pollution: Sources, Effects & Control Methods

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  • 0:00 Sources of Noise Pollution
  • 1:08 Effects of Noise…
  • 2:37 Ways to Control Noise…
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Have you ever rolled down your car window only to hear several different noises? The sources of the noises that you hear can contribute to noise pollution. Use this lesson to learn about noise pollution, its sources, and the different ways to control for it.

Sources of Noise Pollution

You may be familiar with the term 'air pollution.' But have you ever heard of the term 'noise pollution'? Street traffic, trains rolling by, construction work, and even some of the consumer products you use are all sources of noise pollution. Noise pollution is defined as an unwanted or disturbing sound that interferes with normal activities. Noise is best described as any unwanted sound.

Imagine that you are standing outside on a busy intersection trying to talk on the phone. Cars are honking at each other. Groups of people are talking right next to you. A fire truck zooms by with its siren on. You have one hand on the phone and the other hand on your ear. With so much noise around you it's really hard to hear what the person is saying on the phone!

From the car honk to the fire truck siren, these are all sources of noise pollution. Other sources include hair dryers, kitchen blenders, and even lawnmowers. Perceived as an annoyance to you, chronic exposure to these types of noise can actually result in health consequences to your ears and overall body.

Effects of Noise Pollution on Humans

When you think about noise, the first thing that may come to mind is the human ear. Surely the ear is adversely affected from exposure to large sounds. In your inner ear you have a structure called the cochlea. This is a spiral shaped structure that is filled with liquid and tiny hair cells.

Loud noises, from noise pollution, can damage or destroy those tiny hair cells in your ear. By far the most common health effect linked to noise pollution is a condition called noise induced hearing loss, or NIHL. This condition results from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Other health effects from noise pollution can include stress-related illnesses, sleep disruption, and even high blood pressure.

From ships passing by to urban city noise, animal behavior can be disrupted as a result of noise pollution. For example, in a certain frog species the males have adjusted their mating call so that female frogs can hear them. Sometimes, the female frogs do not recognize this call. Thus, this behavioral change can lead to a failure in breeding.

Ping! Ping! These are the sounds marine life hear when ships use their sonar equipment to navigate objects underwater. A useful device for humans, sonar equipment has been shown to cause deafness or hearing loss in marine life.

Have you ever seen the cartoon of a person singing only to cause a glass object to break? Sometimes the vibrations from noise can be so intense they create structural damage, like the shattering of glass!

Ways to Control Noise Pollution

Fortunately, there are some innovative ways to control noise pollution. First, we can start by measuring sound. How do we measure sound? There's a scale that's used to determine when a noise is deemed too loud or too soft. It's called the decibel scale. Humans are comfortable at hearing sounds no greater than 85 decibels. When noises reach above this level, it becomes hazardous to the ear. A dosimeter is a device used to determine the amount of decibels in an environment. If the reading is too high, control measures can be put in place to protect the worker from hearing damage. Let's take a look at a few different ways to control noise depending on the noise pollution source.

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