An Experiment in Noise Pollution Reduction

I’ve been trying an experiment over the past year. It includes trying to reduce the amount of noise pollution I endure during the day. No, I haven’t buried myself in an anechoic chamber. What I have done is consciously reduced the noise around me, including the sound levels of all sorts of sources. As I’m able, I’m reducing the sound levels of my music and of the television (for example) or turning them off completely. What I’m finding is that the sound levels I listened to when I started sound absurdly loud to me now. I don’t have enough medical knowledge to know whether someone’s hearing can repair itself, but I do know that turning down the sound has forced me to pay attention better when I want to hear something. The difference in focus has had a profound effect.

Reducing sound levels has both health and monetary benefits. The health benefits, at the least, are improved hearing. The monetary benefit is that I find I’m using less electricity to produce sound that I didn’t really want to hear in the first place. In addition, because I’m able to focus on a task with all of my energy, I complete tasks faster and with fewer errors, which usually has a positive monetary impact (or, at least gives me more time to do something else). These are the effects that I thought I would achieve when I started my experiment and they have proven to be quite easy to justify. Most importantly, I now find that I can hear things that I would have missed in the past. For example, if my wife requires aid, I can actually hear her more often (she’s incredibly soft spoken).

I’m finding a few surprise changes as the result of my experiment. For one thing, my blood pressure is less on days where I have fewer noise sources to contend with (as much as 15 mmHg), which bodes well for my long term health. I’m also finding that I suffer fewer headaches and that I appear to have more energy. So far, I haven’t seen much difference in my heart rate, which is something I had expected given the other changes I’ve noted. I wish there were some way to quantify how much of this effect is due to sound reduction and how much is due to overall health improvement due to our self-sufficient lifestyle, but I have to think that the sound reduction has a significant effect.

There are a few negative effects to the sound reduction experiment. The first is that I find that I wake easier at night. Sounds that I didn’t notice before are quite obvious now. So, when an animal is killing a rabbit outside, I wake now, rather than sleep through it. The disruption of my sleep does have a negative health effect, but I think the consistent positive health benefits I’ve received outweigh this somewhat negative effect (given that I fall back to sleep quite easily). The second is that I sometimes find myself straining to hear a sound that isn’t there. This psychological effect will likely become less pronounced as time goes on, but for now, it causes some level of stress when it occurs, which is only occasionally.

I haven’t completely cut out sound sources. For most of us, the complete loss of sound sources isn’t obtainable, desired, wanted, or even needed. What I have done is made a conscious effort to reduce the loudness of sound sources when I can. For example, instead of listening to the television at the 35 level, I’ll listen at the 25 or 20 level instead. I’ve cut music sources down to half their previous levels and I turn the music off completely in the afternoon when I’m focused most on writing. I also use hearing protection now even if the sound source isn’t what most people would consider absurdly loud (when using the lawn mower, for example).

Noise pollution poses serious health risks to people today. It isn’t just annoying, it causes all sorts of health, environmental, and monetary problems. While I have always advocated the use of hearing protection when working around loud equipment (wood chippers, weed whacker, chainsaw, blower, circular saw, and so on), this is my first foray into reducing sound levels from all other sources. The effects have been pronounced and I’m now beginning to wonder just how far I can take this and still maintain quality of life. There is a balance to things, after all. Have you considered the effects of noise pollution in your life? What can you do to reduce it? Let me know your thoughts on noise pollution at