How Does Noise Pollution Affect the Environment? (Including Practical Solutions)

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by Benard Omondi
7 min read

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Noise pollution is an invisible enemy that negatively impacts millions of people and the environment daily. According to the World Health Organization and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it’s one of the most dangerous threats to our planet, Earth.

Noise pollution anxiety

There are numerous sources of noise pollution, from thunderclaps (exceeds 120 decibels) to siren wails (120 to 140 decibels). Other common examples are subway trains (90 to 115 decibels), power lawn mowers (90 decibels), and loud rock concerts (110 to 120 decibels). From this, I hope you can see that 90 decibels can harm your ears after an extended period of exposure.

How does noise pollution affect the environment? Please go through the following few sections for answers backed with credible scientific studies if you need a detailed response.

Change the Population and Behavior of Some Flying Species

Several birds have been trying to get adapted to lead their everyday lives alongside humans without much success. When they get exposed to continuous noise originating from various sources such as industrial sites, cities, and road traffic, these animals encounter lots of problems and gradually relocate to safer places.

Recent studies show that great tits and other flying species that communicate with their males through acoustic signals change the call’s frequency in noisy areas. So, when the noise levels are too high, the productivity of these birds reduces.

Another example is the European robin. According to a 2007 study, this bird prefers to sing at night to compensate for noise pollution. The problem is that they cannot respond to these calls at night.

European robin singing at night to be heard.

That’s not all, though. Researchers studying the response of scrub jays discovered that they avoid nesting in noisy places. The shocking part of the study is that as the birds relocate to safer forests, the habitats they leave behind start to deteriorate.

So, noise pollution can reduce the population of some bird species and lead to their extinction. Moreover, this can eventually destroy their habitats, leaving the land exposed to soil erosion.

Scrub jays leave their homes due to noise pollution. Their former habitats start to disappear.

Kill Off the Sex Life of Frogs

According to a recent study by researchers in Melbourne, Australia, noise pollution can interfere with the frog’s sex hormones and eventually reduce their population. They noted that interested females could naturally hear the male pobblebonk frog’s mating call from up to 800 meters away.

However, noise pollution has reduced this to about 14 meters. The frogs end up missing most opportunities to attract suitable females. With time, their bodies can stop producing sex hormones.

Frog has trouble being heard due to noise pollution.

Some male frogs alter their call to higher frequencies to compensate for noise pollution. However, since some female species prefer lower-pitched calls, the males try hard but fail. They end up feeling rejected, stressed, and confused. After a while, this can permanently kill off their sex life.

So, noise pollution can lead to the extinction of many frog species. Whenever that happens, animals and plants that rely on the frogs for food starve and die, causing a more severe imbalance in the ecosystem.

Alter the Survival Behavior of Dogs

Researchers have also discovered a significant impact on the survival behavior of the black-tailed prairie dogs. They exposed the dogs to simulated traffic noise from high-pitched speakers that could be heard 100 meters away from their free-ranging colonies. The dogs didn’t leave their homes. However, the researchers noted the following:

  • The number of dogs declined by 21%.
  • The dogs increased their rate of looking for predators by 48%.
  • Resting and social interactions rates were reduced by 50%.

Prairie dog populations reduce in noisy places.

Overall, noise pollution may play a role in altering the established behavior of some animals. This can lead to a severe decline in their population.

Hinder Marine Species from Leading Productive Lives

Contrary to what many people think, noise pollution is increasingly disrupting marine species’ lives. Industrial noise, military sound navigation ranging (sonar), shipping traffic, and seismic surveys are some of the primary sources of sound that hurt marine life and eventually reduce the ability of oceans and other water bodies to act as carbon sinks.

Please note that sound travels around 1,500 meters per second in water. That’s approximately five times faster than it travels on land. Remember that most marine mammals, including dolphins, porpoises, and whales, rely on sound to navigate and monitor their surroundings, communicate, and much more.

Whale breathing.

Most marine species typically emit active sonar clicks to locate food. They also use sound to guide their migrations.

The US Navy’s high-intensity sonar technique can emit sounds like a rocket taking off (235 decibels). The sound can damage the hearing of these animals and their navigation system. This is what happened in 2000 after the US sonar system testing in the Bahamas beaches. After this event, four whales were found stranded on the beaches. The government investigated the incidence and reported that the mid-frequency sonar was responsible.

Many other reports and studies have linked stranding to sonar, so there is no doubt that sound pollution leads to the death of many marine species. Out of the 40 documented cases of Cuvier’s mass ‘strandings’ from the 1960s, 28 coincided with the use of active sonar.

How does this happen? When sound causes a sudden change in pressure, beached whales’ air bubbles, brains, ears, and other parts begin to bleed, and the animals lose the ability to swim. This is almost the same experience that human divers can go through if they surface too fast from the deep.

Sound pollution also affects small sea animals. A 2011 study shows that short low-frequency sounds can lead to severe tissue and organ damage.

Cause Dreaded Human Diseases

Human diseases also affect the environment since humans play a crucial role directly and indirectly in the sustainability of the environment. Humans help to protect endangered species. Conditions that threaten to wipe away the human race can lead to an imbalance in various ecosystems.

Some of the health conditions and diseases that cause noise pollution are:

  • Hypertension
  • Hearing loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Child development diseases and dysfunctions
  • Blood pressure
  • Dementia
  • Psychological dysfunctions

Result in Economic Burdens

The economic costs associated with noise pollution deplete the resources that we can rely on to preserve the environment. Since noise pollution often leads to health issues, including sleep disturbances, it hinders the affected individuals from working productively. It can also negatively affect the performance of school-going students.

To sum this up, other than the pure medical effects, noise pollution leads to other economic issues that eventually promote the degradation of the environment.

How Can I Reduce Noise Pollution?

Now that you know the most common ways noise pollution affects the environment, we can focus on the solutions. It is one thing to know much about the environment and quite another to use the information to preserve it.

Here are some of the best ways we can eradicate or reduce noise pollution and preserve our environment:

Develop Quieter Roads, Vehicles, and Ships

One of the ways we can reduce noise on our roads is by installing noise-reduction barriers around strategic traffic areas. Governments should also strictly enforce laws that require motorists to drive at much lower speeds. Besides, they should partner with other competent individuals to educate drivers on how developing quieter roads benefits the environment.

The same should continue to happen in the sea. We need lots of “quieter areas” for marine species.

Developing quieter ships, machinery, hull shapes could also be one of the best solutions.

Nations should also implement relevant regulations that control the quality of materials used to manufacture vehicles, military machinery, ships, and more. Since we already have advanced technology for manufacturing noise-free cars, governments should take advantage of this to curb noise pollution.

Improve Planning

When constructing commercial and residential houses, people should take care to avoid exposing wildlife, marine life, humans, and other animals to unbearable noise levels. Of course, better construction materials can be used to reduce the impact of noise on the environment.

However, for the best result, the law should require the relevant authorities to undertake more detailed environmental assessments before construction permits are issued. Follow-up assessments after construction should also be thorough enough. I realize that the US and some other nations have put a lot of effort into ensuring this is done. However, since noise pollution is on the increase, we shouldn’t consider the measures adequate.

Be Responsible At Home

You can also reduce noise pollution at home by often turning off appliances like heaters, fans, or air conditioning units. You can also set a time to control when you or anyone else can switch your home appliances on. Moreover, you can repair or replace your old machinery, soundproof your home, create more quiet time, and use advanced ear protection solutions.

Summing Up

Now you have enough evidence that noise pollution affects the environment in several ways and could eradicate life from the Earth. It’s an invisible enemy responsible for the decline in the population of prairie dogs, scrub jays, and others. It’s also interfering with the survival behavior of humans, many marine species, and other animals.

You’ve also seen that the human world is responsible for generating this problematic noise, and it’s a complex issue. We won’t stop using our military sonars or manufacturing goods in all our noise-producing industries worldwide suddenly. However, we should rely on technical innovation for quieter technologies and our government for environment-friendly legislation. For the rest of us, we shouldn’t give up on taking baby steps to reduce our individual and corporate noise outputs.