Achieving Silence with Noise Cancelling Gadgets
Noise pollution is a relatively new concept in human history, but it’s had a massive impact on our hearing and health. In fact, cases of sensorineural hearing loss are on the rise, and it seems that noise pollution in our daily lives is to blame. While many people are quick to blame loud music, revving cars, noisy clubs for hearing loss and tinnitus, our streets and workplaces are having a much more insidious effect on our ears.
We all know that sunscreen prevents cancer and sunglasses prevent blindness, but we don’t really follow the advice given to us when it comes to our ears. Even if we do, there’s still noise pollution all around us, especially those of us that live in urban settings. If you sit through traffic, go to restaurants, attend parties, or use public transport, you’re being exposed to noise pollution. So, what is noise pollution, how does it affect hearing loss, and how can we beat it?
What is Noise Pollution?
Noise pollution is, aptly named, sound that pollutes our daily life. We might not notice how loud it actually is since we’re constantly surrounded by noise every moment of the day. It isn’t until we use noise cancelling headphones or visit the countryside that we realize how loud our lives actually are. This goes double for those living in crowded cities like New York City, Chicago, Tokyo, and London. The more urban your surroundings, the louder things are. It’s considered a side effect of city-living, and some people find the noise comforting.
However, comfortable doesn’t mean healthy. In fact, this constant barrage of sound is grating on your ears, even if you don’t know it yet. Sound has a serious effect on our health, but it’s often overlooked. Prolonged exposure to noise can cause insomnia, restlessness, and fatigue, but many people don’t know why they feel this way. Human beings were born in nature, and silence meant safety. Now that we’ve been robbed of that silence through traffic and apartment living, we’re not coping too well.
While many of us have adjusted to this kind of life, our ears don’t adapt that fast. The older we get, the more noise pollution will begin to affect us. In fact, noise pollution is cited as one of the primary reasons that so many people are experiencing hearing loss at younger and younger ages.
Noise Pollution and Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type of hearing loss, is caused by the deterioration of the cochlea. To put it simply, the cochlea is a hearing organ located in our inner ear. It’s snail-shaped and lined with tiny, tiny hairs that respond to vibrations and allow us to process sound. Without the cochlea, you cannot hear. The cochlea doesn’t degrade all at once, however. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs gradually, and more and more of these hair cells die until the hearing loss becomes profound.
This form of hearing loss is primarily caused by noise exposure. Over time, the constant presence of loud noise wears down the cochlea, causing sensorineural hearing loss. A common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss? Tinnitus. Tinnitus has been widely reported by those living in urban areas, even by young people. While some people are willing to chalk up their tinnitus to the presence of electrical appliances, many people have some form of hearing loss, and simply do not know it.
The noise pollution we experience in our daily lives can come from almost anywhere. Restaurants and clubs are noisy, clothing stores and malls play loud music for shoppers, concerts and clubs are booming with high-tech sound equipment, and even traffic and public transportation are hard on the ears. People who take the subway every day report feeling overwhelmed by how loud it is, but they consider it a part of their daily commute. Most people don’t even wear hearing protection. City dwellers are surrounded by noise, but that noise is a health risk.
Human beings benefit from silence. We need quiet to sleep, concentrate, and relax. While many people listen to music while doing these things, we all might benefit from a bit more silence in our lives.
The Benefits of Silence
Not only does silence take away the risk of noise exposure, but it also has a lot of health benefits. Mentally, it allows us to relax and clear our minds. Meditation is easier when there’s no melody or conversation to focus on. Emotionally, it can help people unwind and sort through their stress in a healthy way. Physically, silence lowers blood pressure, improves brain chemistry, and strengthens the immune system.
There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t settle down and enjoy the quiet, but getting to that point can be difficult. As mentioned above, many people live in cities, where noise pollution is present at all times. On top of that, most teenagers and adults lead busy lives, trying to keep up with work/school, social interaction, and entertainment. There’s not a lot of time to drive out to the country and achieve true silence.
This is where noise-cancelling devices enter the picture.
How Quiet Gadgets Can Help
For those of us that live in city landscapes and take public transportation to work every day, silence isn’t something easily found. However, replacing our earbuds with noise cancelling headphones can help. While some people are loathed to replace their music playlists with absolute silence, it might save your ears and improve your overall health.
Wearing them during your commute isn’t the only thing you can do. It is recommended that you give your ears a rest after loud activities. This includes parties, concerts, and generally loud days in the city. Putting on noise cancelling headphones at the end of the day to read, relax, and scroll through social media can have a profound effect on your ears and brain. Enjoy the silence, and enjoy the benefits that it gives you.
In today’s world, we’re surrounded by sound. Even our homes contain speakers, televisions, and cellphones. It might be worth our while to work silence into our schedule.
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