Noise pollution, especially in urban environments, is increasingly being acknowledged around the world as a serious issue impacting our health. In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised that urban noise poses a risk to public health and wellbeing.

Various research studies have presented evidence showing that prolonged noise exposure can be linked to several short and long-term health problems – both physiological and psychological. It helps to remember that the ear evolved in an acoustic environment that was nothing like the one we live in today.

The WHO analysed environmental noise from planes, trains and vehicles, as well as other urban sources, and then looked at links to health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children, and annoyance.

The most obvious is interrupted sleep, with its flow-on effects of tiredness, diminished memory and creativity, impaired judgement and weakened psychomotor skills.

A worrying conclusion from the WHO study was that at least one million healthy years of life are lost each year in Europe alone due to noise pollution (this does not include noise from industrial workplaces).

That noise pollution has a serious impact on cognitive performance and quality of life cannot be denied.

Cognitive performance and quality of life

Good cognition is essential for work and academic performance. Excessive noise interrupts concentration, memory and speech recognition, all of which can reduce work quality, output and productivity. There is a growing body of evidence that shows how noise pollution impacts academic ability and learning outcomes and even leads to lower standardised test scores.

Noise pollution is also clearly linked to psychological stress responses and discomfort. In general, people with normal hearing function find loud noise uncomfortable. Accordingly, regular exposure to excess noise in a living space can have a significant negative impact on the quality of day-to-day life.

Though 95 per cent of Aussies admit that they ‘feel affected’ by the continuous bombardment of noise in their homes, less than half of them realise the significant impact of noise pollution on their wellbeing. Whether it’s traffic and construction outside on the street, appliances and electronics at home, or even flight paths crossing overhead, a 2018 Sony Sounds study reveals how hard it is to get away from noise pollution.

With the increasing urban populations and changes in urban development, this is only going to get worse.

With that in mind – it’s important to take a break whenever you can.

Tahnee Schulz, a leading mindfulness expert and psychologist who worked with Sony on the Sounds Study, says, “In the hustle and bustle of modern life, where we’re constantly being overstimulated by both natural and man-made sounds, it’s more important than ever for us to be aware of the epidemic of noise pollution and the effects that it can have on us physically and mentally.”

Schulz suggests that all Aussies should be "taking proactive steps" towards finding a bit of peace and quiet in their lives throughout the day.

Acoustic Blinds and Curtains is a provider of effective noise reduction products for all kinds of 'city' noise.