“Caution, noise!”: How to protect hearing and psyche
In the era of noise pollution, when we exist in an atmosphere of constant noise background, especially if we live in big cities, you need to know how to take care of hearing, cope with noise in everyday and working life. Otolaryngologist Svetlana Ryabova talked about the difference between noise and sound, what noise level is harmful, what should be avoided in order to maintain health.
Everything you wanted to know about noise
Please explain the differences between noise and sound? What are the boundaries?
Sound is mechanical vibrations that propagate in an elastic medium: air, water, a solid, and are perceived by our hearing organ – the ear. Noise is a sound in which the change in acoustic pressure perceived by the ear is random and is repeated at different intervals. Thus, noise is a sound adversely affecting the human body.
From a physiological point of view, low, medium and high sounds are distinguished. Oscillations cover a huge range of frequencies: from 1 to 16 Hz – inaudible sounds (infrasound); from 16 to 20 thousand Hz – audible sounds, and over 20 thousand Hz – ultrasound. The area of perceived sounds, that is, the border of the greatest sensitivity of the human ear, lies between the threshold of sensitivity and the threshold of pain sensation and is 130 dB. The sound pressure in this case is so great that it is perceived not as sound, but as pain.
What processes start in the ears / inner ear when we hear unpleasant noises?
Prolonged noise adversely affects the hearing organs, reducing the sensitivity to sound. This leads to an early hearing loss according to the type of sound perception, that is, to sensorineural hearing loss.
If a person hears noise on an ongoing basis, can this trigger the development of chronic diseases? What are these diseases?
Noise has an accumulative effect, that is, acoustic stimulation, accumulating in the body, depresses the nervous system more and more. If loud sounds surround everyday, for example, in the subway, a person gradually ceases to perceive quiet, losing hearing and loosening the nervous system.
The noise of the sound range leads to reduced attention and increased errors during the execution of various types of work. Noise depresses the central nervous system, causes changes in the rate of respiration and pulse, contributes to metabolic disorders, the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases, stomach ulcers, hypertension.
Does the noise cause chronic fatigue? How to deal with it?
Yes, constant exposure to noise can lead to feelings of chronic fatigue. In humans, under the influence of constant noise, sleep is significantly disturbed, it becomes superficial. After such a dream, a person feels tired and headache. Constant lack of sleep leads to chronic overwork.
Can an aggressive sound environment cause aggressive human behavior? How is this related?
One of the secrets to the success of rock music is the emergence of the so-called noise intoxication. Under the influence of noise from 85 to 90 dB, the auditory sensitivity at high frequencies that are most sensitive to the human body decreases, noise above 110 dB leads to noise intoxication and, as a result, to aggression.
Why is so little talk about noise pollution in Russia?
Probably because for many years no one was interested in the health of the population. We must pay tribute, in recent years in Moscow, attention to this issue has intensified. For example, active gardening of the Garden Ring, building protective structures along highways are being carried out. It is proved that green spaces reduce street noise by 8-10 dB.
Residential buildings should be “moved away” from the sidewalks by 15-20 m, and the area around them must be landscaped. Just at the moment, environmentalists are seriously raising the issue of the effect of noise on the human body. And in Russia, science began to develop, long and actively practiced in several European countries, such as Italy, Germany, – Soundscape Ecology – acoustic ecology (ecology of sound landscape).
Is it possible to say that in a noisy city people have worse hearing than those who live in quieter places?
Yes you can. The acceptable daytime noise level is considered to be 55 dB. This level is not harmful to hearing, even with constant exposure. The norm of noise levels during sleep is considered to be 40 dB. The noise level in neighborhoods and neighborhoods along motorways reaches 76.8 dB. Noise levels measured in residential premises with open windows facing the mains are only 10–15 dB lower.
The noise level is growing along with the growth of cities (over the past few years, the average noise level emitted by vehicles has increased by 12-14 dB). Interestingly, a person in a natural environment never remains in complete silence. We are enveloped by natural noises – the sound of the surf, the noise of the forest, the noise of a stream, river, waterfall, the sound of wind in a mountain gorge. But we perceive all these noises as silence. This is our rumor.
In order to hear the “necessary”, our brain filters out natural noise. The following interesting experiment was carried out to analyze the speed of thought processes: ten volunteers who agreed to participate in this study were invited to engage in mental work under various sounds.
It was necessary to solve 10 examples (from the multiplication table, add and subtract with a transition through a dozen, find an unknown variable). The results of the time were taken as the norm, for which 10 examples were solved in silence. The following results were obtained:
- When listening to the noise of a drill, the subjects’ performance was reduced by 18.3–21.6%;
- When listening to the murmur of a stream and the singing of birds, only 2–5%;
- An amazing result was obtained when playing “The Moonlight Sonata” by L.V. Beethoven: the counting speed increased by 7%.
These indicators tell us that different types of sounds affect a person in different ways: monotonous noise of a drill slows down the human thought process by almost 20%, the noise of nature practically does not interfere with a person’s thoughts, and listening to quiet classical music even favorably affects us increasing brain performance.
How does a person’s hearing change over time? How seriously and critically can hearing deteriorate if you live in a noisy city?
With the course of life, a natural decrease in hearing occurs, the so-called phenomenon – presbycusis. There are norms for hearing loss at certain frequencies after 50 years. But, with the constant influence of noise on the cochlear nerve (the nerve responsible for the transmission of sound impulses), the norm goes into pathology. According to Austrian scientists, noise in big cities reduces human life by 8-12 years!
What kind of noise is the most harmful to the organs of hearing, the body?
Too loud, sudden sound – a shot at close range or the noise of a jet engine – can damage the hearing aid. As an otolaryngologist, I often came across acute sensorineural hearing loss – essentially a concussion of the auditory nerve – after a shooting range or a successful hunt, and sometimes after a night disco.
Finally, what are some ways to let your ears rest?
As I said, it is necessary to protect yourself from loud music, to limit the viewing of television programs. When doing noisy work every hour you need to remember to take a 10-minute break. Pay attention to the volume with which you are talking, it should not injure either you or the person you are talking to. Learn to speak more quietly if you tend to communicate too emotionally. If possible, relax more often in nature – this will help both your hearing and the nervous system.
In addition, how can an otolaryngologist comment on how and at what volume it is safe to listen to music on headphones?
The main problem of listening to music on headphones is that a person is not able to control the volume level. That is, it may seem to him that the music plays quietly, but in fact he will have almost 100 decibels in his ears. As a result, modern youth are beginning to have problems with hearing, as well as with health in general, as early as 30 years old.
To avoid the development of deafness, you need to use high-quality headphones that prevent the penetration of extraneous noise and, thus, eliminate the need for increased sound. Sound itself should not exceed an average level of 10 dB. You need to listen to music on headphones for no more than 30 minutes, then pause for at least 10 minutes.
Many of us spend half our lives in the office, and it is not always possible to coexist with noise in the workplace. Galina Carlson, regional director of Jabra (a company that manufactures solutions for the hearing impaired and professional headsets, is part of the GN Group founded 150 years ago) in Russia, Ukraine, the CIS and Georgia: “According to The Guardian, due to noise and subsequent employees lose up to 86 minutes a day. ”
Below are a few tips from Galina Carlson on how employees can deal with noise in the office and concentrate effectively.
Move the equipment as far as possible
A printer, copier, scanner and fax machine are present in any office space. Unfortunately, not every company thinks about the successful location of these devices. Convince the decision maker to ensure that the equipment is in the farthest corner and does not create additional noise. If it’s not about open space, but about individual rooms of a small size, you can try to place noisy devices in the lobby or closer to the reception.
Meet as calmly as possible.
Collective meetings are often chaotic, and then a headache occurs: colleagues interrupt each other, creating an unpleasant sound background. Everyone must learn to listen to their other participants in the meeting.
Follow the “hygiene rules of work”
There should be reasonable breaks in any work. If possible, go out to breathe fresh air, switch from a noisy environment – so the load on the nervous system will be reduced. Unless, of course, your office is located near a busy highway, where the noise hurts you no less.
Do radical – try to work from home from time to time
If the corporate culture of your company allows, try working from home. You will be surprised how easy it is for you to be able to concentrate on tasks, as your colleagues will not distract you with various issues.
Choose the right music for concentration and relaxation
Obviously, not only the “Moonlight Sonata” can have a positive effect on concentration. Collect a playlist for cases where you need to connect all your attention to an important matter. It should combine sublime, inspirational music with fast pace, and mix with neutral music. Listen to such a “mix” for 90 minutes (with a break, which we previously wrote about).
Then, during a 20-minute rest, select two or three tracks in the style of ambient – songs with open, longer, lower tones and frequencies, slower rhythms with fewer drums.
Alternation according to this scheme will help the brain think more actively. Special applications that help users to monitor the set volume of music will also help to prevent hearing damage.
about the author
Galina Carlson – Regional Director of Jabra in Russia, Ukraine, the CIS and Georgia.