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Noise Stress
Photo: Martin Applegate
Noise can be very unpleasant and may effect the quality of our lives. Today's lifestyle can present quite a few ways in which noise can disturb our space—the person talking loudly on their cellular phone, music blaring from a stereo system, snow blowers and air-conditioning units burring away, and the constant barking of the neighbor's dog disturbing your sleep.

How do all of us cope with these noise challenges? Different people respond in different ways depending upon their personality, noise sensitivity (introverts show a higher sensitivity than extroverts), age, and what activity they are involved with. What scientists have found is that everyday noise can take a toll on your health.

Typical sound levels in an open office area can make workers feel more tired, decrease their ability to concentrate and their reading comprehension, increase their risk of errors, lower their productivity, and raise cortisol, the stress hormone. This can negatively impact their ability to solve problems and impair short-term memory, especially in those who are noise sensitive.

Noise can significantly disturb sleep and produce a poorer quality of sleep to a degree that mood and work performance the next day can be seriously affected. Creative work such as poetry written by persons exposed to noise typical of the level found in a crowded restaurant was assessed as less creative than the poetry written by persons in a quiet atmosphere.

European studies revealed that children constantly exposed to high traffic noise had slightly higher blood pressure values and an increased risk of respiratory health problems than children exposed to lower levels of noise. Classroom noise can increase the prevalence of fatigue and headaches in school children.

Traffic Noise

Men living in areas with high traffic noise are reported to be 30 percent more likely to experience a heart attack than those living in quieter neighborhoods. Adults who reported severe annoyance of neighborhood noise also had a greater risk of migraine and depression. Chronic exposure to stressful noise levels suppresses the immune system. Occupational noise can also produce hearing impairment over time.

There are numerous ways to combat the noise that surrounds us. Curtains and carpeting are effective ways to reduce unwanted noise. Music CDs playing pleasant environmental sounds—for example, steady rainfall, waterfalls, ocean waves, or gently bubbling streams—can produce a calming influence. White or pink noise can be used to mask various disturbing noises. One can also utilize periods when noise levels are higher than normal to accomplish routine jobs that don't require a high level of creativity.

It is important to have some quiet time for reflection and meditation. The psalmist admonishes us to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10). Paul urged the importance of striving to live a peaceful and quiet Christian life (1 Timothy 2:2).

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By Winston J. Craig. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, November 2007. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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