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Coping with Noise

Coping with Noise

You can just imagine what drove New Yorker Tim Robbins to take the lead role in the 2007 vigilante movie Noise. Billed as a story “about a guy who had it up to hear (sic),” it tells the tale of a New York City man driven to destroy any parked car that has an ear-shattering alarm going off.

The constant din of urban life can push anyone over the edge; it can also trigger hypertension, coronary heart disease and heart attack. In fact, one Danish study found every sustained 10 decibel increase in the noise level you are usually exposed to increases your risk of a heart attack by 12 percent. Noise is particularly tough on folks who are noise or sound sensitive, triggering insomnia and muddled thinking. Depression and anger can become chronic.

According to the American Public Health Association, 104 million Americans are at risk because of increased exposure to the harmful health effects of environmental noise. So, what should you do for protection?

  1. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.
  2. Seal sound-leaky windows and use sound-dampening drapes and shades; install sound-absorbent carpeting.
  3. Use white noise machines (if they don’t bother you), especially when sleeping.
  4. Try sound desensitization training.
  5. Got to noisefree.org to discover ways to lobby local, state and federal officials for noise abatement legislation and ordinances.

And, one more thing: Sound sensitivity isn’t all bad. A study in the journal Neuropsychologia found that folks with 'leaky' sensory gating (that’s sound sensitivities) may be more creative!  

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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