Long-time exposure to loud noises and high volumes can be devastating for one’s hearing, psyche, and overall health. As of lately, there are some indications that this might be far more serious than people are giving it credit for.
Now, some will argue that noise has existed since the dawn of the universe, so why is it all of a sudden such a big deal? You see, never before in history was there so much human-caused noise, and never before was it so omnipresent. There are more cars, planes, and all sorts of vehicles now than any time in the world, which means that traffic has never been louder. There are more appliances and, well, more people than ever before.
So, with all of this in mind, could noise pollution really be the next big public-health crisis? Let’s find out!
What Types of Hearing Sensitivity Issues are There?
The first thing worth mentioning is that there are several types of hearing sensitivity, some of them caused by different sensations.
- When talking about noise sensitivity, what we’re warning about is not simply irritation by loud noises. In the most extreme of cases, this exposure leads to hyperacusis. This will put you in a spot where you’re irritable by the sound of jingling coins, barking dogs, car engines, chewing, or the noise produced by a vacuum cleaner. While neither of these noises is described as pleasant, once you develop hyperacusis, they will become unbearable. So how does one develop it? The answer is simple – exposure over a long period of time.
- Phonophobia is a condition in which specific sounds make you anxious. Upon hearing these noises, some people will develop a desire to flee, they will start sweating excessively, and their heartbeats will become irregular. In other words, they will either have a severe case of anxiety or a full-blown panic attack.
- If there are sounds that make you angry, you’re most likely suffering from misophonia. The biggest problem with this condition is usually tied to human speech. This means that other than just being inconvenient, this condition could actually and actively make you antisocial.
- The condition known as recruitment is one’s inability to naturally transition from a quiet to a loud environment. This can be especially difficult when going to work (regardless of the means of commute). It is also why so many people saw remote working as a blessing in disguise.
As you can see, the biggest problem with the above-listed issues lies in the fact that the problem is caused by everyday situations and noises. In other words – it’s inescapable.
The physiological cause of hyperacusis
One more thing worth mentioning is the fact that hyperacusis may be caused by other illnesses, as well. For instance, tinnitus, Meniere’s disease, or Lyme disease are often the cause of this problem. Then, you have factors like a head injury or migraines. In these situations, the treatment for the illness could make the situation somewhat easier to manage.
What Is the Solution?
Well, the first thing worth noting is that it’s not the noise alone – it’s the overexposure over the longest period of time. Namely, hiding away from all loud noises would be counterproductive, seeing as how it would make you less adjusted to the problem at hand. As we’ve explained, you can’t hide from loud noises in the 21st century.
Therefore, the only solution would be to make an investment of time, effort, and resources to create “safe areas” or slightly diminish the noise within a certain space. More and more people are making attempts to soundproof walls and ceilings in their homes and workplaces.
Another solution to the problem would be the one that leads to lifestyle change. The problem is that there’s only so much you can do, especially if your home is in an inconvenient location (next to an airport, industrial zone, nightclub, etc.). Moreover, chances are that you’re not putting yourself in these noisy situations deliberately, which means that avoiding them won’t be simple. This could be a part of your overall attempt to lead a healthier lifestyle.
How Can You Treat This?
In terms of treatment, you have only a couple of options. In a scenario where the problem is psychological (and not physiological), you could attempt cognitive behavior therapy. Remember, this is something that would have to be done by a professional.
Sound therapy can also be quite helpful. It’s a situation in which you wear earpieces and get slowly accustomed to some of these signs. However, it’s incredibly important that you understand two things. First, you can’t wear earpieces too often. You will get too accustomed to these muffled noises, and soon you won’t be able to go anywhere without them. Second, it is vital that you expose yourself as much as you possibly can. Hiding from this problem is not only unrealistic – it’s not even an option.
In other words, while there are a few things that modern medicine can do about this, it’s not a treatment in a traditional sense, and it’s definitely not a cure.
Public Health Crisis
The reason why some assume that this might become a public health crisis is mostly because of the number of people exposed to these noisy living conditions. In the past couple of years, there was also a surge in the number of people suffering from some of the issues discussed above.
The most important thing worth noting here is that there’s a need for a government body that is capable of monitoring and analyzing these problems, as well as coming up with solutions. Soundproofing, improvements in earplug manufacturing, etc., are just some of the things we’ll have to discuss.
Handling noise pollution is not simply a matter of convenience and feeling pleasant in the workplace. It’s about protecting yourself from something that could endanger your health in the long run. It is a scenario in which you need to take the necessary steps of precaution to avoid allowing this to become a problem in the first place. The worrisome thing lies in the fact that this is quickly becoming a global phenomenon, and it is unclear whether enough is being done to prevent it.
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