What is Noise Pollution?

Noisy neighbours can be irritating and we’ve probably all shouted at someone to turn the music down but do these things constitute noise pollution?

Noise Is Personal

Our experience of sound is different for all of us, what constitutes noise pollution will be, by its nature, subjective. However in general, it is deemed to be regular and prolonged or sudden exposure to any unpleasant, damaging, or irritating noise above a certain level which will harm us, wildlife, or the environment in some way.

To put it very simply, noise pollution is ‘unwanted sound’.

Types of Noise Pollution

Common types of noise pollution can include the following:

  • Barking dogs
  • Car or house alarms
  • Noisy neighbours
  • Loud music, social events, clubs, pubs, and bars
  • Factory machinery
  • Traffic and aircraft noise

Noise At Work

In a climate where we often work in large open-plan offices, it can be hard to work in silence. As well as the general ambient noise of conversation and machinery, there may also be music, announcements, and email alerts constantly interrupting the quiet.

In fact, it has been recognised that too much undesired sound can disrupt our work patterns, lower our productivity rate, and even affect our health. For this reason, businesses have been called to re-assess the amount of noise their employees are expected to work with and new lower levels were set this year.

Noise Pollution And Health

It has long been recognised that exposure to levels of noise exceeding safe limits can be detrimental to hearing, but this year the World Health Organisation published new findings linking exposure to excess noise (anything over 50 decibels), to high blood pressure, strokes and even heart attack.

This new avenue of research has shown that even whilst sleeping, the body will react to loud noises, releasing stress hormones and triggering the ‘fight or flight’ response thus keeping the body in a perpetual level of tension.

Other side-effects of noise pollution include feeling irritated and angry, not being able to concentrate, interrupted sleep, and hearing related conditions such as tinnitus.

Noise Pollution And The Law

Noise pollution may either originate from indoors (for instance the noise of machinery in a factory) or outdoors (for instance from traffic). It may either be regulated by the Environment Agency, such as in the case of industrial noise or by the Local Authority as with the case of most instances of domestic noise offences.

The Environmental Protection Act, 1990 includes noise as a possible statutory nuisance and enables Environmental Health officers to investigate any complaints from citizens who are being bothered by excessive noise.

To constitute a nuisance, noise levels must exceed reasonable expectation of what would be acceptable and also be deemed to demonstrably affect the quality of life of the complainant.

What To Do If You Are Affected By Noise Pollution

If you feel your life is being adversely affected by noise pollution and you can identify a specific source or cause, then if applicable, try to amicably approach the person or persons causing a nuisance.

If this doesn’t help solve things, then contact your local council and report the problem to the Environmental Health team. They will then investigate the noise and if appropriate, they have the power to serve a Noise Abatement Notice and/or refer the case to court.