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Environmental Psychology and Population Density Understanding How People are Effected by Noise

Updated on January 25, 2013


The adverse effects of noise include hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, disturbance of sleep, cardiovascular disturbance, mental health, impaired task performance
The adverse effects of noise include hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, disturbance of sleep, cardiovascular disturbance, mental health, impaired task performance | Source

Noise is All Around Me

The first thing that I hear as I leave through the front door of my apartment building is the screaming of a child two floors above and the barking of dogs that belong to the neighbors. These sounds are easily ignored but once outside they are already overshadowed.

There is a major highway near my apartment that sends me the constant rumbling of cars and trucks. There are shouting people, construction workers, cars, buses, small trucks, big trucks, and scooters. These last, though they are the smallest, are the ones that I find the most annoying. I live in Wuhan, China, a city of 10 million people. It is a myth that the most used form of transportantion in China is the bicycle. In reality it is the scooter, though the people who ride them usually call them motorcycles.

For me these scooters are a nusance. The people who ride them show no respect for others in the way they drive and they are constantly using their horns. It is impossible to be anywhere in the city without hearing the sound of someone's horn.

What is Noise?

Noise is sound that is not wanted or that has no need (Goines & Hagler, 2007). Noise is considered an ambient stressor which interferes with behaviors such as communication and the ability to concentrate as well as desired states such as sleep and relaxation (Miedema, 2007). During the past few decades as populations have moved from rural to urban areas the amount of noise which people are exposed to has grown (Goines & Hagler, 2007). The rise of noise levels has had deleterious effects on people's health (Goines & Hagler, 2007).

The Effects of Noise

The adverse effects of noise include hearing impairment, interference with spoken communication, disturbance of sleep, cardiovascular disturbance, mental health, impaired task performance, negative social behavior and annoyance reactions (Goines & Hagler, 2007; Noise: effects on health, 2007; Straub, 2007). Continuous exposure to loud noise has the potential to result in the loss of hearing (Goines & Hagler, 2007; Noise: effects on health, 2007; Straub, 2007). Communication is often hindered by the presence of competing noise (Goines & Hagler, 2007; Noise: effects on health, 2007; Straub, 2007). According to Goines and Hagler (2007) sleep disturbances associated with noise “are difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, waking too early, and alterations in sleep stages and depth, especially a reduction in REM sleep” (p. 290). In addition to these disturbances in the quality and ability to sleep, “noise during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased pulse amplitude, vasoeonstriction, changes in respiration, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement” (Goines & Hagler, 2007, p. 290). Chronic exposure to noise creates a seemingly inescapable atmosphere of stress that can increase blood pressure, heart rate, headaches, emotional instability, anxiety, nervousness sexual impotence and many other biological and psychological troubles (Goines & Hagler, 2007; Noise: effects on health, 2007; Straub, 2007).

Strategies for Noise Reduction

One method of reducing noise is the use of headphones for music (Goines & Hagler, 2007). This method has advantages both for the individual using the headphones and for the people around him. The advantage to people nearby is that by using headphones this individual is not contributing to the environmental noise affecting others. The advantages to the individual is that the headphones block out the unwanted sounds of the environment. This means that even though the individual is listening to music through the headphones he was effectively reduced the noise to which he is being exposed. A downside to the use of headphones is that if the person has the volume too high a potential result of this method might be hearing loss for the individual.

Another method for reducing the level of noise that an individual is exposed to is to spend more time in activities that remove the individual from the source of noises. Outdoor activities which involve nature areas might be beneficial in not only decreasing the noise in a person's life but also providing the other health benefits that are associated with exposure to nature. A weekend hike in the woods or the exploration of local mountain bike trails would be beneficial in providing the individual with exorcise, a break from routine and an escape from the noise and crowds of urban life.


Goines, L., & Hagler, L. (2007). Noise Pollution: A Modem Plague. Southern Medical Journal,100(3), 287-294. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Miedema, H. E. (2007). Annoyance Caused by Environmental Noise: Elements for Evidence-Based Noise Policies. Journal of Social Issues, 63(1), 41-57. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00495.x

Noise: effects on health. (2007). In Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine.Retrieved from


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© Copyright 2012. Wesley Meacham- This article is copyright protected and is the property of Wesley Meacham. All images in this article, unless otherwise stated, are the property of Wesley Meacham. Please do not copy this article in whole or in part without giving credit to the original author.


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    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      6 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Jenniferteacher and Magicfive, thank you both for commenting. I often feel trapped by noise and look for ways to escape it. I'm trying to learn to ignore most noise but it is hard at times.

    • MAGICFIVE profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Unwanted noise does cause stress! We live in an apartment building, and there is always "door banging" and people shouting and going up and down the stairs at all hours. I find that I can never quite feel relaxed here!

    • Jenniferteacher profile image


      6 years ago from Seoul

      I feel hypersensitive to noise, judging by how noises which bother me seem to be easily ignored by those around me. Living in a big city, it can be difficult to have peace and quiet. I'd love to read something about desensitizing oneself to (inescapable) noise.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      6 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Thanks for commenting Kristyleann. I rarely watch TV anymore, (I actually don't own one at the moment). But the mute button was my favorite button. It wasn't just me either. My whole family regularly muted the TV. It wasn't just due to other things going on either. We would press mute the moment the advertisements came on. To us, they were usually just noise.

    • kristyleann profile image

      Kristy LeAnn 

      6 years ago from Princeton, WV

      I have always been more sensitive to noise than other people. I don't really know why. I have bipolar disorder and I read somewhere once that sensitivity to noise can be one of the lesser known symptoms of bipolar, but I'm not sure how true that is. But I find noise SO distracting. My ex boyfriend used to listen to the TV so loud I couldn't stand it and if I do anything (study, order a pizza, etc.) I have to put the TV on mute otherwise I get so distracted. I start to feel like I can't pay attention to what's going on and then I feel really anxious. But that's just me lol...I know excessive noise has a negative effect on everyone but for me it's probably twice as bad.


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