Noise can be so harmful to health: three quarters of Germans are contaminated

Noise can be so harmful to health: three quarters of Germans are contaminated

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Noise is more than just a nuisance

Ambient noise is one of the most felt environmental impacts in Germany. 76 percent of the German population feel permanently bothered by noise. The main sources include traffic noise from cars, planes and trains, but noise from the neighborhood is also perceived by many as disturbing. Constant noise pollution is much more than just a nuisance. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warns: Those who are regularly exposed to high sound levels risk protracted or permanent damage to mental and physical health.

On April 24, 2019, the German Society for Acoustics, the DEGA (ALD) Noise Working Ring and the RKI explained for the 22nd time the "Day against Noise" campaign about the many negative effects of general noise pollution. Among other things, the experts warn of permanent ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, increased stress, sleep disorders, impaired performance, increased anxiety disorders and a reduced quality of life due to ambient noise.

Three out of four people are affected by noise pollution

Regardless of whether recurring short-term sound peaks or a continuously high sound level - noise from the surroundings can become a serious health hazard. "According to the latest statistics from the Federal Environment Agency, 76 percent of the German population feel disturbed or annoyed by road traffic noise, 44 percent by air traffic noise, 38 percent by rail traffic noise," wrote the German Society for Acoustics in a current press release. According to the RKI, every fourth person also feels annoyed by noise from the neighborhood.

Health hazard noise

Noise is often accepted as a disturbance or annoyance. Many people do not know that continuous noise pollution is associated with numerous health risks. Ongoing noise pollution can lead to "impairments of the hearing system, temporary or permanent ear noises (tinnitus) up to hearing loss", emphasize RKI experts. In addition, noise is also a psychosocial stress factor, which can severely limit subjective well-being and the perceived quality of life.

Chronic noise pollution causes serious illness

According to the RKI, anyone who is exposed to long-term or even chronic noise pollution has a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, a stroke and heart attack. The blood lipids, blood sugar levels and the coagulation factors in the blood are also negatively influenced by noise pollution.

Aural and extra-aural effects of noise

One has to differentiate between the so-called aural effects of noise pollution. This directly affects the auditory organ and depends on the strength, duration and intensity of the sound level. On the other hand, there is the so-called extra-aural effect of noise, in which the noise is not necessarily harmful to the hearing, but affects health as a psychological stress factor. According to the RKI, this stress trigger has a similar effect as other stressors such as chronic overwork, underload or pressure to perform.

Daytime and nightly noise work differently

Noise stress can lead to various impairments during the day or at night. According to the RKI, noise during the day tends to be associated with emotional stress, feelings of annoyance and disturbance as well as with increased fear. If the noise level increases at night, this can be manifested by sleep disorders and reduced performance.

When do sounds become noise?

The current recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the average noise pollution caused by road traffic should not exceed 53 decibels during the day. For nighttime noise pollution, the WHO recommends keeping the noise level below 45 decibels. Night traffic noise above this value is associated with impaired sleep. (vb)

Author and source information

Video: Dr. Esteban Burchard - A Life in Medicine: People Shaping Healthcare Today (February 2023).