The interactive map below rates 100 cities surveyed from noisiest (100) to quietest (1). Each city was checked out to determine whether it has laws limiting excessive noise, such as from construction, honking horns, or barking dogs. Next, the Texas Transportation Institute presented study officials with a list of the most traffic-congested towns, and Boeing (of airplane fame) produced a list of cities that impose a curfew on airports' overnight flights. Finally, the percentage of people who report sleeping seven hours or less per night was contributed by Experian Consumer Research. .
(Graphic courtesy of Men's Health Metrograde, May 2009)
If you love peace and quiet, then Hartford, Connecticut might be a great place to live. Hartford logged the quietest zip code in a survey of 100 U.S.cities, but it’s the loudest cities we’re interested in.
Rated on a scale of one to 100 (one being the quietest – hello, Hartford!) and 100 being the loudest (Detroit – anyone surprised?), some of the results are a bit unexpected; Bangor Maine, the hometown of Author Stephen King ranks much louder (74) than Los Angeles (50).
When it comes to noisy, all the usual suspects are here – New York (86), Chicago (95), Miami (96), Philadelphia (97). In California, Oakland scores the second highest ranking for noise (99) and San Francisco is not far behind at 93; Houston and Dallas, Texas are in the top 10 at 92 and 90 respectively.
Urban life is noisy, everyone knows this; but many Americans can’t imagine living any other way. However, those people who love their lives in the city may not be considering the repercussions of daily exposure to high noise levels, which affects everything from our blood pressure and heart rate, to our sleep patterns. Noise can make us sick. Even if we think we’ve grown accustomed to the din of our surroundings, our bodies are affected by noise in a way that can rob us of our hearing, ability to concentrate, and even ability to heal after illness or injury. Children raised in noisy environments have a harder time than their peers with school work. Elderly people exposed to high noise levels experienced exaggerated symptoms of illness, anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation.
Noise is a part of the modern world, but the more aware we are of how it affects us and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones at home, at work, in our schools, hospitals and public buildings, the sooner we can address the seriousness of noise pollution in a meaningful way.
Do you live in one of the country's noisiest cities, or did you in the past? Tell us what you think of living with noise. Has it affected your health, your hearing, or your ability to sleep? What measures have you taken, or considered taking, to reduce noise in your worrld?
Many organizations and publications that promote green living, green construction, green manufacturing, and green energy focus on unhealthy pollutants that take the form of toxic or non-biodegradable waste.
Isn’t it time to include noise in the roll call of un-green, unhealthy pollutants?
Green living has taught us that every time a SUV is driven solo (no passengers), it’s adding more than 1.5 pounds per mile of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to the environment. In the spirit of living green, many of us have changed our driving habits for the sake of the environment. We drive smaller cars, we carpool, and we take short trips on foot or by bike instead.
We buy reusable containers for carrying around water, and when we do buy bottled, we recycle the empties. We feed our families more organically-grown foods these days, and clean our homes with non-toxic cleansers because living green is healthier.
So when you consider the toll that noise pollution is taking on our health every day, you would think that addressing noisy matters would be number one on the list of “green living” priorities, or at least in the top five.
Noise pollution is a modern plague; it affects our hearing, our sleep patterns, our performance levels, and even the way food tastes. It has been documented to increase risks of heart disease and stroke. Noise pollution – from the neighbor’s constantly barking dog, to the unwelcome sounds of air and ground traffic, construction, manufacturing plants, lawn equipment and the hundreds of sources of ambient sounds that infiltrate our space daily – is not a component of green living.
Exposure to sound levels in excess of 85 decibels for more than eight hours is potentially unhealthy. Eighty-five decibels is roughly equivalent to the noise of heavy truck traffic on a busy road.
Above 85 decibels, hearing damage is related to sound pressure (measured in decibels) and to time of exposure. The major cause of hearing loss is occupational exposure to noise, although other sources (particularly recreational noise) are also culprits. Studies suggest that children seem to be more vulnerable than adults to noise induced hearing impairment. Children in noisy environments are also found to have more difficulty reading and learning, and experience a diminished quality of life.
Children, the elderly, and those with underlying depression may be particularly vulnerable to noise pollution because they may lack adequate coping mechanisms.
Noise pollution impairs task performance at work and in school, increases errors, and decreases motivation. Focusing, problem solving, and memory are most strongly affected by noise.
Although noise pollution is not believed to be a cause of mental illness, it is assumed to accelerate and intensify the development of latent mental disorders, anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headache, emotional instability, argumentativeness, sexual impotence, changes in mood, increase in social conflicts, neurosis and psychosis. Population studies have suggested associations between noise and well-being, the use of psychoactive drugs and sleeping pills, and increased mental-hospital admission rates.
Noise levels above 80 decibels are associated with both an increase in aggressive behavior and a decrease in behavior helpful to others. News agencies regularly report violent behavior arising out of disputes over noise, often ending in injury or death. The effects of noise may help explain some of the dehumanization seen in the modern, congested, and noisy urban environment.
Noise pollution effects the environment very differently than regular fossil fuel pollution, but it can still have very negative effects. For this reason, many states and counties have developed noise control laws that designate exactly how much noise a vehicle can legally emit, or how loud a band can play in an outdoor restaurant. The problem with noise control laws, however, is they can be very difficult to enforce.
Green living is the healthy result of decades spent educating people on the ill effects of pollutants and ways to undo their damage. It’s time to include noise in the green education process that has produced citizens who recycle, compost, preserve water and energy, and look at the items bought and used every day differently than their parents and grandparents did.
It’s time to up the bar; involve citizens in managing noise wherever possible, and demand that businesses and other noise offenders do the same.
Noisy generators and HVAC units, pool pumps, car stereos played at heart-pounding volume and noise generated from a cranked home stereo all contribute to noise pollution. Even the drive to work and the eight-or-more hours spent there expose us to onslaughts of noise – construction, traffic, sirens and horns blaring, manufacturing plants, machinery and more – that take a toll on our health and wellbeing.
Even after years of living with noise in our daily lives, when we think we have become accustomed to it, our bodies are singing a different tune in the form of gradual hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, stress, sleep deprivation and other symptoms.
For one week, everyone shoud take note of the various noise sources that have become a part of their everyday lives. This might be a good start to recognizing those sounds that are harmful, and finding solutions to managing or eliminating the most damaging culprits.
We can even adapt some existing green slogans to eradicating noise:
Green revolution, the best solution to noise pollution.
I hear the Eco.
Be Quiet! Go Green!