Does prolonged exposure to low pitch but low volume noise affect hearing or stress?

Does prolonged exposure to low pitch but low volume noise affect hearing or stress?

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This is similar to another post but not quite the same… At work, our ventilation system produces a constant low pitched sound - like a rumble - as well as the sound of air blowing through the vents. It's not very loud, we can certainly talk, even whisper to each other, but when it shuts off, it's like a huge weight off my shoulders. My ears don't really pop but there's sort of a slight "tingling" sensation - like when the blood starts flowing to a hand or foot that fell asleep. You can usually hear several people in the same room say "Ahhh" as in we are all glad the noise has stopped. I have worked in this location for over 10 years and in that time I have developed tinnitus which is probably attributed to a number of bad behaviors as a youth. But I was wondering if this constant noise could contribute to the decline in hearing? Also, that sense of relief when the noise stops makes me wonder if the constant noise adds to our stress levels?

Basically you are asking: (1) does the low-pitch noise affect my hearing sensitivity; (2) has the noise aggravated hearing loss acquired earlier in life; (3) if the noise can induce stress and (4) if the noise may cause tinnitus (kind of a hidden question).

(1) Is the ventilator noise damaging?: Noise-induced hearing loss typically occurs at high sound levels. Occupational safe noise levels are set at around 85 dB SPL (Nat. Stand. Occupational Noise). This is comparable to listening to traffic on a busy road from 10 meters away for 8 hours/day for 5 days/week (see wiki on sound levels), or a diesel truck at 15 meters going 64 km/h. If you can still talk normally, the noise cannot be much more than 60 dB SPL, which is normal conversational level (see sound chart). So the ventilation noise is not bad for your ears as it is well below 85 dB SPL.

(2) Does the noise aggravates present damage?: Similarly to the answer under (1), the noise is not loud enough to be regarded damaging even with existing hearing loss.

(3) Does it cause stress? As @anongoodnurse suggested: yes it causes stress, apparently. Every unpleasant sensation will do so to a certain level.

(4) Effects of the noise on tinnitus: Typically, tinnitus is caused by hearing loss (see cause of tinnitus) and the pitch of tinnitus often coincides with the lost frequencies (see cause and effect of tinnitus). So if your "bad behaviors" at youth refer to loud music, then it is probably noise-induced hearing loss that has resulted in a dip at your hearing acuity at 4 kHz (the 4-kHz notch). In effect, the tinnitus you are experiencing will be around this frequency and therefore high-pitched. As the loudness of the ventilator is too low to cause damage, it is probably unrelated to your tinnitus.

Noises over 75dB can cause temporary damage (temporary threshold shift), noises over 85dB can cause both temporary and permanent damage (permanent threshold shift). The size of the permanent damage depends on the intensity of the noise, the duration, and many other parameters e.g. genetics, antioxidants, time between two exposures, etc… For example daily 8h of 80dB is considered safe, while daily 8h of 85dB or 20mins of 100dB is considered unsafe. Tinnitus is a sign of hearing loss, so it can be both temporary and permanent.

You should measure the noise levels. For example install Sound Meter to your mobile phone. (The results can depend on the microphone. Most of the mobile phones cannot measure 100dB+ sounds, but I think this is not your case.) For example the ventilator of my computer is 35dB. I agree with Chris Stronks, that it is unlikely that your noisy ventilator caused your tinnitus or has any effects on it.

  • 2013 - Noise induced hearing loss: Research in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe and newly independent states
  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

    Sound is measured in units called decibels. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.


  • 1974 - Hearing loss due to continuous exposure to steady‐state broad‐band noise

    The limit of permissible noise exposure, defined as the maximal level which did not cause measurable noise‐induced shift in hearing levels of workers exposed to it irrespective of exposure years, was shown to be NR 75 or 80 dBA.

  • 2012 - 10-Year prospective study of noise exposure and hearing damage among construction workers

  • 2013 - Noise-induced hearing loss in the 21st century: A research and translational update
  • 2014 - Early prognosis of noise-induced hearing loss

    At this occasion, a standardised noise exposure was applied (20 min, 200-500 Hz, 100 dBA) and the TTS at 4 kHz was determined during at least 10 min after exposure.

  • 1989 - Noise level, inner hair cell damage, audiometric features, and equal‐energy hypothesis

According to new studies continuous exposure to low dB (65-70) sound (which don't damage inner hair cells) can cause neural changes in sound processing. Constant noise can cause annoyance, concentration disturbance, etc… as well.

  • 2013 - Effects of passive, moderate-level sound exposure on the mature auditory cortex: spectral edges, spectrotemporal density, and real-world noise.
  • 2014 - Is the din really harmless? Long-term effects of non-traumatic noise on the adult auditory system

    People are increasingly being exposed to environmental noise from traffic, media and other sources that falls within and outside legal limits. Although such environmental noise is known to cause stress in the auditory system, it is still generally considered to be harmless. This complacency may be misplaced: even in the absence of cochlear damage, new findings suggest that environmental noise may progressively degrade hearing through alterations in the way sound is represented in the adult auditory cortex.

  • 2012 - Effects of repeated "benign" noise exposures in young CBA mice: shedding light on age-related hearing loss.

  • 2012 - Environmental noise exposure degrades normal listening processes.

    Here we show that exposing adult rats to structured noise at a sound pressure level of 65 dB, which is markedly below the broadly accepted safety level standard, results in behavioural impairments and substantially impairs the function of the auditory cortex. The strong deterioration in cortical processing of acoustic inputs is independent of the modulation rates of structured noises. Almost equally strong effects result from 10-h daily versus 24-h daily exposure regimens. These results indicate that there can be substantial negative consequences for the auditory system documented at the cortical level, attributable to environmental exposure to structured noises delivered under conditions that do not directly impact hearing sensitivity. These noises are deemed to be 'safe' and are often present in modern human environments.

  • 2013 - Noise and health in vulnerable groups: A review

    A cross-sectional study in Nigeria [36] among children frequenting a school near a major road (noise range: 68-85 dBA) found at least some annoyance and concentration disturbance in 70% of the children. Fatigue and lack of concentration came forward as the most prevalent noise-related health problems.

I am a Noise Engineer and an Air-conditioning (Mechanical) Engineer, and it is my job to understand the effects of noise to our hearing capability. To start with an analogy, can you smell yourself on your pillow that you used for a long time (say 3 months)? You cannot, but a visitor who just borrowed your pillow for a night can smell it.

Now to answer the question directly, a "prolonged and constant" exposure to a low level noise, even less than 30 dBA (whisper), can cause hearing loss. Specific study showed that exposure to 40 dBA on specific frequency for 3 months will cause a hearing loss on that frequency. Notorious about this common occupational risk are those working in an improperly designed air handling system, those living/working a 2 km radius from a Wind Turbine, those living within a 1.5 km from a sub-station transformer, and many more.

What causes hearing loss is not the sound(pressure/level) itself, but the SOUND POWER. Power is a product of sound level/pressure/energy and TIME! A Firecracker is an explosion that has very high sound energy but short duration. A wind turbine sound has very low sound energy but very long duration. In effect, the product or result is the same.

I hope this has answered directly the question and put the issue to rest.

Listening to White Noise Might Affect Your Brain in a Weird Way, Study Suggests

If you're one of the 50 million Americans who experience the constant ringing of tinnitus – or you just live in a noisy house or apartment and find it hard to get a good night's sleep – you might be familiar with white noise generators.

These devices emit a sound like the buzz of old-fashioned TV static, which can mask things like disruptive background noises and the ringing, high-pitched whine caused by tinnitus. But according to a new study, that's not all white noise might be doing to your brain.

"In the past 50 years, brain scientists have learned a great deal about brain plasticity - how sensory and other inputs change the brain chemically, structurally, and functionally," explains cognitive scientist Mouna Attarha, formerly a PhD student at the University of Iowa, and now a researcher at Posit Science Corporation, which makes brain training software.

"Increasing evidence shows that the brain rewires in a negative manner when it is fed random information, such as white noise."

In a new review article, Attarha and researchers from the University of California, San Francisco suggest that the background buzz of white noise – which some advocate as a means of lessening the perceived symptoms of tinnitus – could actually be harmful to our central auditory system.

While the biological mechanisms behind tinnitus aren't fully understood, scientists are continually finding evidence that the symptoms are tied to measurable changes in various parts of the brain that go beyond simple hearing loss – although tinnitus, especially when it first appears, is often associated with exposure to loud, traumatic noises that damage the eardrum and hearing.

While there's isn't significant evidence in humans to suggest that lower-volume sound like background white noise could bring about these kinds of changes in the central auditory system, Attarha's team cite animal studies that suggest prolonged exposure in animals does affect their brains.

"A rapidly growing body of literature, largely conducted in animal models within the last decade, has now established that long-term exposure to nontraumatic noise … is capable of inducing maladaptive plastic reorganisation of the central auditory nervous system in ways that bear striking phenomenological overlap with the persistent, widespread disinhibition of the auditory system thought to underlie tinnitus in humans," the authors write in their paper.

"Notably, these changes have been observed following exposure to noise levels in the 60 to 70 dB sound pressure level range, typical of commercially available noise generators and considered 'safe' by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration."

According to the researchers, the putative neural effects on the central auditory system are numerous, but include a reduction in neural inhibition (the ability to filter unimportant information), a lengthening of the amount of time it takes for the brain to process changing signals, and less precise cortical representations (how information is represented in the brain).

It's far too early to conclude that the unstructured sound of white noise – a random combination of different frequencies – is having the same effects on people.

And it's also worth noting that two of the researchers have positions at Posit Science Corporation – developing commercial technology they say can have beneficial effects on cognitive processes, which is a disclosure to bear in mind in light of the ideas they're putting forward.

But nonetheless, given sound therapy with white noise is already being used to ostensibly help patients manage the symptoms of their tinnitus, the researchers say we should at least be open to the hypothetical possibility of the potentially harmful effects seen in animal studies.

Especially since, in their (unproven) hypothesis, that continued exposure to prolonged, low-level noise could be aggravating their condition, not helping it.

"Controlled neurobiological experiments investigating non-traumatic noise exposure thus suggest that sound therapies implementing broadband noise may be driving patients' brains further toward, rather than away from, the pathological disinhibitory state that has long been associated with tinnitus," the researchers write.

10 Common Noises That Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss

"I first noticed my hearing loss in my late 50s. Like most people, I ignored it because I thought it didn’t interfere with my life. I also thought acknowledging it would make me old. Over the next 10 years, my hearing worsened and I realized how it was affecting relationships with my family. I thought my grandchildren were mumbling and whispering all the time because I could hardly understand them, especially over the phone.

It took an ear infection to learn how bad my hearing really was. My ENT doctor confirmed my hearing loss and referred me to an audiology practice to be fitted for hearing aids.

I regret waiting so long to do something about my hearing loss. I missed so many conversations and special moments with my husband, children and grandchildren. That’s why I tell people who haven’t addressed their hearing loss, 'What are you waiting for?'" -- Patty Koele, 71, Ocala, FL

About 14 percent of people between the ages of 45–64 have some type of hearing loss, which you might notice as difficulty following conversations or trouble hearing children and women with high voices. (For a full list of the typical signs and symptoms of early hearing loss, visit Plus, one in three people over the age of 65 have hearing loss, but, like Patty, they tend to wait a long time before doing something about it—seven years on average.

The reasons for delaying treatment probably sound familiar:

  • Denial and the perception the problem isn’t that serious
  • Negative associations of hearing loss and being old or disabled
  • Due to gradual onset, those with hearing loss literally don’t know what they are missing
  • Not realizing that some hearing loss can be kept from worsening by early treatment

Why Hearing Loss Happens

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive (CHL), sensorineural (SNHL), and mixed which includes both types.

CHL hearing loss is a mechanical problem: for some reason, your outer or middle ear isn't able to vibrate properly in response to sound waves. Causes include too much ear wax, fluid due to infection, a hole in the eardrum, and otosclerosis, which is an overgrowth of the bone in your middle ear.

SNHL is the most common type of hearing loss and is caused by noise exposure, medications and age, to name a few. "Though hearing loss is often attributed to natural aging, in fact, hearing loss may be congenital (inherited) or exacerbated by excessive noise," says Leigh Ann Watts, Au.D., CCC-A, an audiologist at Beneficial Hearing Aid Center who treated Koele. "Noise is all around us, every day, from television to lawn mowers to household appliances. It's unavoidable, yet can be harmful in excess."

What Counts as Excessive Noise?

Frightening fact: Hearing loss can occur after a one-time noise exposure at 120 decibels, such as gunfire, or continuous noise exposure to dangerous levels of 85 decibels or above over a prolonged period of time. It's important to know what levels are safe in order to protect your hearing:

110-140 decibels: Rock concert or jet engine Firecracker Nail gun Ambulance siren Chainsaw Home stereo speakers at maximum volume

* Just 1 minute of exposure to noises at this level can result in permanent hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.

85-100 decibels: Garbage truck Power mower Motorcycle Snowmobile Jackhammer

* Continual exposure to noises in this range can cause permanent hearing loss.

"I recommend maintaining levels below 75 decibels and listening to your ears," says Dr. Watts. "If a sound is too loud, remove yourself from the situation or put on proper hearing protection." For reference, a normal conversation typically hits about 60 decibels.

What You Can Do If You Do Have Hearing Loss

Fortunately, 90 percent of SNHL hearing loss (caused by excessive noise or aging) can be improved by wearing a hearing aid, and CHL hearing loss (caused by a mechanical problem) can be reversed or significantly improved with medical or surgical treatment, says Dr. Watts.

No matter your specific needs or lifestyle, she recommends the following hearing aid features, if you and your doctor decide to go that route:

Directional microphones – this feature has been proven to improve hearing in places with heavy ambient noise.

Telecoils – this special circuitry within a hearing aid prevents feedback (or whistling) when you're on the phone.

Bluetooth technology – this allows for wireless connection from your hearing aid directly to cell phones and TVs.

Rechargeable hearing aid batteries – they're super convenience and a must for people with visual or dexterity issues.

If you're over 50, hearing aids may conjure visions of clunky, uncomfortable monstrosities—a cure worse than the condition. But today's hearing aids come in comfortable, discreet designs and provide natural-sounding hearing in a wide variety of environments. Another modern benefit: Hearing aids are also available with tinnitus therapy settings for those suffering from ringing in the ear.

Koele decided on the Pure® hearing aid from Siemens. "They're comfortable and don’t plug up my whole ear," she says. "And they do everything I want them to do and connect wirelessly to all my gadgets, so I can listen to music, take calls, and hear the TV right through my hearing aids."

Ear Sensitivity Due to Hypothyroidism

What is hypothyroidism? It is a term used to describe underactive thyroid glands. They don’t produce enough hormones the body needs.

1. Tinnitus

Tinnitus may be a symptom of an underlying condition such as thyroid dysfunction. A lot of people diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction experience ringing in their ears.

Whenever you hear that ringing sound in your ear and other noises not coming from your surroundings, you could be experiencing tinnitus. Tinnitus is a medical expression for this sensation.

You can either hear it from one ear, both ears, or the middle of the head. Sometimes the noise can be low, medium, or high-pitched.

2. Fluctuating Hearing

Hypothyroidism can also affect your actual hearing ability by alternately changing it from sudden noise sensitivity to weak hearing. Sometimes, you will be able to hear low volume sounds from across the room, but the next minute, you may be having a hard time listening to a friend in front of you.

3. Sensitive Hearing

Another symptom of hypothyroidism is sensitive hearing or hyperacuity. Hyperacusis is a form of acute hearing where you can hear almost everything, even the most low-pitched sounds.

There are cases when sudden sensitivity to sound caused by hypothyroidism can also lead to deafness. Much like explosions can give you temporary hearing loss, constant sensitivity to noise can lead to deafness.

4. Vestibular Abnormalities

Vestibular abnormalities have been found constant in some patients diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease. The vestibular system is part of the inner ear and brain that controls balance and eye movements.

Damage to your vestibular system can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, ear sensitivity, and sudden loud sounds that can lead to vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance.

5. Ear Pressure

Have you ever experienced that weird feeling in the ear similar to a popping feeling when you are driving up to higher altitudes?

Hypothyroidism can create an opposite effect causing your your eardrums are to feel like they are being sucked inward. This pressure in the ears and head can also be a sign of an underlying thyroid disorder.

The Connection Between Ear Sensitivity and Hearing

Why are people with hypothyroidism prone to ear sensitivity in the first place?

In reality, no study officially confirms the relationship or fully understands the link. Some types of research point out the association among autoimmune diseases.

A 2010 study in Maedica reported that those with symptoms or diagnoses of an autoimmune condition may also experience other kinds of autoimmune diseases.

It doesn’t show a cause-and-effect relationship. However, a person with mild hearing loss or eardrum (tympanic membrane) issues due to an autoimmune ear disease may increase their risk of hypothyroidism and vice versa.

Another possible reason is the link between thyroid hormones and the cochlea.

The cochlea is the snail-shaped organ in the inner ear that receives the sound vibrations. It’s the thousands of hair cells, though, that convert these sounds into nerve impulses the brain receives and interprets.

In the 2018 mice research, the cochlea needs thyroid hormones to develop properly.

Further, the animals with genetic mutations affecting thyroid hormone transporters experienced problems in the maturity of the auditory system. It also resulted in the degeneration of the cochlear hair cells.

Other Possible Causes of Hearing Loss and Sensitivity

Hypothyroidism isn’t the only possible explanation for ear sensitivity and hearing loss. These can also occur due to the following conditions:

  • Central auditory processing disorder, a hearing problem common among school-aged children characterized by the poor coordination between the brain and ears
  • Meniere’s disease, an auditory condition affecting one of the inner ears
  • Canal dehiscence, an opening in the bone that covers one of the inner ear’s canals
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ syndrome, pain that affects the lower jaw, which may be due to facial nerve injury

Other common reasons may be:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Neurological conditions or damage to the auditory nerves
  • Antibiotics
  • Misophonia or poor tolerance to specific noises
  • Prolonged or long-term exposure to loud noises
  • Chronological and biological aging (it worsens the person’s ability to hear higher frequency range)
  • Anxiety (studies associate it with sensorineural hearing loss, which affects the inner ear)

Note: People with hypothyroidism may also have anxiety disorders or depression. Meanwhile, ear sensitivity may lead to social isolation, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety or depression.

How to Enhance Hearing Protection

Because ear sensitivity can occur for a variety of reasons, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

If you suspect a connection with a thyroid issue, seek an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the endocrine system, particularly hormones.

You may undergo a series of blood and auditory tests to confirm the connection. Usually, to deal with hormone problems, the doctor may prescribe medications or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

For a more holistic approach to treating your ear sensitivity, LIV Health offers a personalized healthcare plan.

You can also reduce the symptoms of your ear problem by:

  • Limiting exposure to noises with high decibel levels (the ideal maximum decibel is below 85 decibels, which is the loudness of normal conversations)
  • Undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) if the reason is due to mental health issues like PTSD or anxiety
  • Opting for sound therapy or ear retraining such as exposure to pink noise or white noise to improve hearing response
  • Treating the root cause of hypothyroidism, including mineral and vitamin deficiencies

What is cognitive-behavioral therapy? It is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes the changing of a person’s negative thoughts or behavior.

What is pink noise? It is a color noise deeper than white noise, such as the rustling of leaves. Since the noise spreads, it doesn’t hurt the ears.

Hypothyroidism affects the entire body. It is no surprise that it affects even the ears causing hearing loss, tinnitus, and vestibular abnormalities. Consult a hearing care professional to help you manage the symptoms with the right kind of treatment.

Have you experienced hearing problem symptoms due to hypothyroidism? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 28, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

Does prolonged exposure to low pitch but low volume noise affect hearing or stress? - Biology

Everyday we experience loud noises. It’s just part of our lives in this modern civilization. Whether you’re walking down the sidewalk, past a construction crew working on the road, or whether you’ve simply cranked up your awesome 80’s power ballads in the car. Loud noises are all around us.

The fact is that as you get older, you’ll naturally experience hearing loss. It’s just a part of life and whilst it sucks, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

However in the meantime, whilst you wait to get to that glorious age (where nothing on your body seems to work like it used to when you were a young whippersnapper) there are steps you can take to prevent hearing loss .

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by extremely high levels of noise. It can either be a consequence of high noise levels of a period of time, or by one single incident at the highest end of the scale. Here’s a little list of some example noises and their approximate decibel levels:

  • Refrigerator humming sound – 45 decibels
  • Conversation at a normal level – 60 decibels
  • Heavy city traffic – 85 decibels
  • A motorcycle – 90 decibels
  • MP3 player at maximum volume – 105 decibels
  • Sirens – 120 decibels
  • Firearms – 150 decibels

Now, of course, all of these things depend on how close you are to the source of the sound. How long you are exposed to it is also a factor in how much damage it causes to your hearing.

As you can see though, it doesn’t take much to get up to the higher levels – how many times have you listened to the music on your MP3 player at a high level, and for how long?

What happens to your ears at high noise levels?

To understand how these high noise levels can damage the ear and the ability to hear, we need to understand the basics of how the ear actually works. So here goes, I’ll try not to make this too technical…here goes nothing:

Step 1. The sounds enter the ear. The ear lobe acts a funnel to catch the sound waves and guide them down the ear canal.

Step 2. The sound waves vibrate the eardrum which in turn vibrates the three tiny bones I mentioned at the start of this article.

Step 3. The vibrations are then passed through to the inner ear, which is shaped like a snail and is filled with fluid. This fluid then also vibrates and passes it onto something called the basilar membrane. This contains tiny hairs that “ride” the wave of sound passing through.

Step 4. These hair cells then create a chemical reaction causing an electrical signal, which is then passed through the auditory nerve to the brain.

Step 5. Finally! The brain picks up the sound from the auditory nerve and converts it into something that we can understand.

The damage caused by loud noises is typically done to the tiny hairs we saw in step 3. If these hairs are damaged, they can (and most probably will) eventually die off completely resulting in hearing loss.

Unfortunately for us humans, our hair cells don’t grow back. If you’re fortunate enough to be a bird or an amphibian however, you don’t have to worry about this, as yours will grow back.

So what can we do to prevent NIHL?

Preventing NIHL is actually pretty easy. In fact, NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable. No, you don’t have to walk around the streets wearing ear defenders , but here are a few tips to preventing NIHL:

  • Know which noises can cause damage to your hearing. That’ll be anything at or above 85 decibels.
  • Wear protective devices when involved in a loud activity. Also, make sure that they are rated appropriately for the noise you expect to encounter.
  • Move away from the noise if you can’t protect yourself from it.
  • Protect the ears of children who can’t protect themselves.
  • Get your hearing tested by a professional if you think you have already experience some hearing loss.

Well, now you know what we know. You should also understand why we do what we do. Click here to visit our website for more information about the products we offer.

What are the health effects of noise pollution?

Noise pollution occurs when unwanted sounds enter the environment. The potential health effects of noise pollution include increased stress levels, sleep disturbance, or hearing damage.

Some examples of noise pollution sources include :

This article looks at noise pollution in more detail and its potential health effects. We will also discuss ways to reduce noise pollution.

Pollution occurs when a contaminant enters the environment, causing undesirable effects. There are several types of pollution, including:

Noise pollution is the spread of unwanted sounds into the environment.

Noise is almost always around us, whether natural, such as birdsong, or from human activity, such as vehicle traffic. However, noise build-up can have a significant impact on the well-being of humans and animals.

Compared to other types of pollution, people often overlook noise pollution as a health hazard. A 2018 review notes it as an underreported factor. However, many people are experiencing a rise in noise pollution due to an increase in human activity.

Unwanted sounds can have a range of mental health effects.

The brain is always monitoring sounds for signs of danger, even during sleep. As a result, frequent or loud noise can trigger anxiety or stress. With continued exposure to noise pollution, a person’s sensitivity to stress increases .

People living with noise pollution may feel irritable, on edge, frustrated, or angry. If a person feels they cannot control the amount of noise in their environment, its impact on their mental health intensifies.

Environmental noise is also a common cause of sleep disturbance. A person may experience:

Sounds can also reduce the depth and quality of sleep, altering the amount of rapid eye movement sleep. This can impact a person’s mood and ability to concentrate.

The physical health effects of noise pollution can occur as a direct or indirect result of noise exposure.

In severe cases, loud sounds can directly cause hearing impairment. Some forms of noise-induced hearing impairment include:

  • abnormal loudness perception , which causes a persistent high-pitched ringing in the ears
  • paracusis, or distorted hearing

Some research also suggests that noise pollution may indirectly contribute to other health conditions.

According to a 2018 review, there is evidence that short-term exposure to noise pollution can temporarily raise blood pressure and increase blood viscosity. There is also an association between long-term exposure to noise and higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

The review authors suggest that this may occur due to the impact of noise pollution on stress hormone levels and the nervous system. Over time, this stress may contribute to the development of disease.

Another 2018 study in Canada found that preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy, was more common among pregnant people exposed to higher levels of noise pollution.

According to the 2018 review, children are particularly vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss. A 2014 study found that chronic exposure to noise for 8 hours a day could cause permanent hearing changes in children, including the inability to hear certain frequencies.

An article in The Indian Journal of Pediatricsnotes that noise pollution can affect a child’s hearing at any stage of development, including fetal, infancy, and adolescence.

Additionally, unwanted or loud noise at school or home may make it challenging for children to learn. They may experience more difficulty with:

This may affect a child’s behavior, their ability to form relationships, and their confidence. They can also develop high blood pressure due to chronic exposure to sound.

In some cases, noise pollution is unavoidable. However, there are ways to reduce noise levels inside the home. A person can try:

  • Reducing noise from appliances: Items, such as air conditioning units, heaters, fans, and other appliances, can contribute to overall noise levels in the home. Try turning them off more often or setting a timer, so they only switch on at certain times.
  • Reducing noise from media devices: Consider the volume and duration of noise from music, televisions, radios, and video games. Avoid having unnecessary noise playing in the background for long periods, or listening to sounds at too high a volume. It may be useful to set aside dedicated time for watching TV or listening to music.
  • Repair or replace old machinery: Old appliances, vehicles, and other items can be louder than newer models. Consider upgrading or replacing noisy household items.
  • Soundproofing: Adding insulation strategically around the home can help muffle sounds from other rooms, neighbors, or outside. Rugs, carpets, and curtains may also help.
  • Create more quiet time: Try to regularly set aside time for quiet activities, such as reading, puzzles, or creative hobbies. Avoid playing music or having background noise during this time.
  • Ear protection: If loud noise is unavoidable, use ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, to reduce its impact.

Some people find the sound of white noise soothing, and use it to relax or get to sleep. A 2016 study on people with sleep disorders showed that white noise was effective in masking noise pollution, which may make white noise machines beneficial for those living in noisy areas.

However, it is also important to note that white noise, as with other types of noise, can still have adverse effects. Loud or prolonged exposure may cause hearing loss at certain decibels.

Ensure that white noise machines are set at a safe volume and a safe distance away from a sleeping person before use.

If noise pollution affects a person’s hearing or mental health, and methods to lower noise are not effective, speaking with a doctor can help.

Depending on how noise impacts someone, they may benefit from consulting with a hearing or sleep specialist. A therapist can also help teach coping mechanisms.

For children exposed to frequent or loud noise, it is important to monitor for signs of hearing loss. Regular checkups and hearing tests can help determine if there is any damage.

Sometimes, hypersensitivity to noise can be a symptom of other conditions, such as hyperacusis. A doctor can diagnose this.

A person could also try reporting excessive noise to their local authority if it breaches legal limits. This could include noise pollution from outdoor events, venues, construction sites, or businesses.

Noise pollution significantly impacts public health. Research suggests it can raise stress, affect mental health, and contribute to developing health issues such as high blood pressure.

Direct exposure to loud or persistent noise can also lead to hearing impairment. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of noise pollution.

It may be possible to reduce levels of noise in the home, school, or workplace with simple changes, such as soundproofing and turning off devices.

Where can I find additional information about tinnitus?

The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.

Use the following keywords to help you find organizations that can answer questions and provide information on tinnitus:

For more information, contact us at:

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free voice: (800) 241-1044
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055
Email: [email protected]

Publication No. 10-4896
February 2014
(Statistics updated September 2014)

That’s a good question—having sound pouring into your ears for hours at a time doesn’t, well, sound like a good idea. After all, excessive use of earbuds, especially among young people listening to music at high volumes, is being linked to an increase in hearing loss. So what about noise-canceling headphones that fight noise with other noise? True noise-canceling headphones have a pretty sophisticated way of countering noise in your surroundings—they have built-in microphones that detect surrounding sounds, and the headphone speakers then generate audio frequencies that are 180° out of sync with the frequency (pitch) and amplitude (loudness) of the surrounding sound. That’s why they’re called noise canceling. Even when they work at their best, though, you don’t hear total silence when using noise-canceling headphones—and the slight hissing that is heard can make some people feel queasy. But it won’t harm your hearing or your health. Headphones that only cancel noise do not emit potentially harmful radiation as cell phones do. (Note: Noise-canceling headphones that let you also listen to music wirelessly do emit slight radiation.) However, if the hissing sound bothers you, another noise-reducing option is headphones that don’t emit any noise-canceling frequencies at all but simply block outside sound with layers of foam or rubber that create a seal around the ears. Rather than being harmful, noise-canceling headphones actually might benefit your health. If you’re frequently exposed to loud noise—such as from rumbling trains, loud traffic—wearing noise-canceling headphones may help protect your hearing. However, not all noise-canceling headphones provide adequate protection against extremely loud noises (for example, roaring jets or jackhammers) listened to for extended periods of time. There are specially designed headphones that protect hearing from that kind of noise.

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Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears and what to do about it

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is sound in the head with no external source. For many, it's a ringing sound, while for others, it's whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking. The sound may seem to come from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady or pulsating.

Almost everyone has had tinnitus for a short time after being exposed to extremely loud noise. For example, attending a loud concert can trigger short-lived tinnitus. Some medications (especially aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken in high doses) can cause tinnitus that goes away when the drug is discontinued. When it lasts more than six months, it's known as chronic tinnitus. As many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States suffer from this condition it's especially common in people over age 55 and strongly associated with hearing loss. Many people worry that tinnitus is a sign that they are going deaf or have another serious medical problem, but it rarely is.

Most tinnitus is subjective, meaning that only you can hear the noise. But sometimes it's objective, meaning that someone else can hear it, too. For example, if you have a heart murmur, you may hear a whooshing sound with every heartbeat your clinician can also hear that sound through a stethoscope. Some people hear their heartbeat inside the ear — a phenomenon called pulsatile tinnitus. It's more likely to happen in older people, because blood flow tends to be more turbulent in arteries whose walls have stiffened with age. Pulsatile tinnitus may be more noticeable at night, when you're lying in bed and there are fewer external sounds to mask the tinnitus. If you notice any new pulsatile tinnitus, you should consult a clinician, because in rare cases it is a sign of a tumor or blood vessel damage.

The course of chronic tinnitus is unpredictable. Sometimes the symptoms remain the same, and sometimes they get worse. In about 10% of cases, the condition interferes with everyday life so much that professional help is needed.

While there's no cure for chronic tinnitus, it often becomes less noticeable and more manageable over time. You can help ease the symptoms by educating yourself about the condition — for example, understanding that it's not dangerous. There are also several ways to help tune out the noise and minimize its impact.

Auditory pathways and tinnitus

Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle and inner ear, where hair cells in part of the cochlea help transform sound waves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain's auditory cortex via the auditory nerve. When hair cells are damaged — by loud noise or ototoxic drugs, for example — the circuits in the brain don't receive the signals they're expecting. This stimulates abnormal activity in the neurons, which results in the illusion of sound, or tinnitus.

What's going on?

Most people who seek medical help for tinnitus experience it as subjective, constant sound like constant ringing in the ears or a buzzing sound in the ear, and most have some degree of hearing loss. Things that cause hearing loss (and tinnitus) include loud noise, medications that damage the nerves in the ear (ototoxic drugs), impacted earwax, middle ear problems (such as infections and vascular tumors), and aging. Tinnitus can also be a symptom of Meniere's disease, a disorder of the balance mechanism in the inner ear.

Tinnitus can arise anywhere along the auditory pathway, from the outer ear through the middle and inner ear to the brain's auditory cortex, where it's thought to be encoded (in a sense, imprinted). One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the hair cells in the cochlea (see "Auditory pathways and tinnitus"). These cells help transform sound waves into nerve signals. If the auditory pathways or circuits in the brain don't receive the signals they're expecting from the cochlea, the brain in effect "turns up the gain" on those pathways in an effort to detect the signal — in much the same way that you turn up the volume on a car radio when you're trying to find a station's signal. The resulting electrical noise takes the form of tinnitus — a sound that is high-pitched if hearing loss is in the high-frequency range and low-pitched if it's in the low-frequency range. This kind of tinnitus resembles phantom limb pain in an amputee — the brain is producing abnormal nerve signals to compensate for missing input.

Most tinnitus is "sensorineural," meaning that it's due to hearing loss at the cochlea or cochlear nerve level. But tinnitus may originate in other places. Our bodies normally produce sounds (called somatic sounds) that we usually don't notice because we are listening to external sounds. Anything that blocks normal hearing can bring somatic sounds to our attention. For example, you may get head noise when earwax blocks the outer ear.

Some drugs that can cause or worsen tinnitus

Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)

Certain antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin (Cipro), doxycycline (Vibramycin, others), gentamicin (Garamycin), erythromycin (Ery-Tab, others), tetracycline (Sumycin), tobramycin (Nebcin), and vancomycin (Vancocin)

Antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine and quinine

Certain anticonvulsants, including carbamazepine (Tegretol, others) and valproic acid (Depakote, others)

Certain cancer drugs, including cisplatin (Platinol) and vincristine (Oncovin, Vincasar)

Loop diuretics (when given intravenously in high doses), including bumetanide (Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), and torsemide (Demadex)

Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil, others), clomipramine (Anafranil), and imipramine (Tofranil)

Evaluate and treat underlying problems

If you develop tinnitus, it's important to see your clinician. She or he will take a medical history, give you a physical examination, and do a series of tests to try to find the source of the problem. She or he will also ask you to describe the noise you're hearing (including its pitch and sound quality, and whether it's constant or periodic, steady or pulsatile) and the times and places in which you hear it. Your clinician will review your medical history, your current and past exposure to noise, and any medications or supplements you're taking. Tinnitus can be a side effect of many medications, especially when taken at higher doses (see "Some drugs that can cause or worsen tinnitus").

Musculoskeletal factors — jaw clenching, tooth grinding, prior injury, or muscle tension in the neck — sometimes make tinnitus more noticeable, so your clinician may ask you to tighten muscles or move the jaw or neck in certain ways to see if the sound changes. If tight muscles are part of the problem, massage therapy may help relieve it.

Tinnitus that's continuous, steady, and high-pitched (the most common type) generally indicates a problem in the auditory system and requires hearing tests conducted by an audiologist. Pulsatile tinnitus calls for a medical evaluation, especially if the noise is frequent or constant. MRI or CT imaging may be needed to check for a tumor or blood vessel abnormality.

Your general health can affect the severity and impact of tinnitus, so this is also a good time to take stock of your diet, physical activity, sleep, and stress level — and take steps to improve them. You may also be able to reduce the impact of tinnitus by treating depression, anxiety, insomnia, and pain with medications or psychotherapy.

If you're often exposed to loud noises at work or at home, it's important to reduce the risk of hearing loss (or further hearing loss) by using protectors such as earplugs or earmuff-like or custom-fitted devices.

Selected resources

American Academy of Audiology

American Tinnitus Association

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Managing tinnitus

In addition to treating associated problems (such as depression or insomnia), there are several strategies that can help make tinnitus less bothersome. No single approach works for everyone, and you may need to try various combinations of techniques before you find what works for you. If you have age-related hearing loss, a hearing aid can often make tinnitus less noticeable by amplifying outside sounds.

There is no FDA-approved drug treatment for tinnitus, and controlled trials have not found any drug, supplement, or herb to be any more effective than a placebo. That includes ginkgo biloba, which is sometimes promoted for this purpose. Some patients believe that acupuncture helps, but it too has been found to be no better than a placebo.

The most effective approaches are behavioral strategies and sound-generating devices, often used in combination. They include the following:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT uses techniques such as cognitive restructuring and relaxation to change the way patients think about and respond to tinnitus. Patients usually keep a diary and perform "homework" to help build their coping skills. Therapy is generally short-term — for example, weekly sessions for two to six months. CBT may not make the sound less loud, but it can make it significantly less bothersome and improve quality of life.

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). This technique is based on the assumption that tinnitus results from abnormal neuronal activity (see "What's going on?"). The aim is to habituate the auditory system to the tinnitus signals, making them less noticeable or less bothersome. The main components of TRT are individual counseling (to explain the auditory system, how tinnitus develops, and how TRT can help) and sound therapy. A device is inserted in the ear to generate low-level noise and environmental sounds that match the pitch, volume, and quality of the patient's tinnitus. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, treatment may last one to two years.

When TRT was developed in the 1980s by neuroscientist Dr. Pawel Jastreboff, it was designed to be administered according to a strict protocol. Today, the term TRT is being used to describe modified versions of this therapy, and the variations make accurate assessment of its effectiveness difficult. Individual studies have reported improvements in as many as 80% of patients with high-pitched tinnitus.

Masking. Masking devices, worn like hearing aids, generate low-level white noise (a high-pitched hiss, for example) that can reduce the perception of tinnitus and sometimes also produce residual inhibition — less noticeable tinnitus for a short time after the masker is turned off. A specialized device isn't always necessary for masking often, playing music or having a radio, fan, or white-noise machine on in the background is enough. Although there's not enough evidence from randomized trials to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of masking, hearing experts often recommend a trial of simple masking strategies (such as setting a radio at low volume between stations) before they turn to more expensive options.

Biofeedback andstress management. Tinnitus is stressful, and stress can worsen tinnitus. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that helps control stress by changing bodily responses. Electrodes attached to the skin feed information about physiological processes such as pulse, skin temperature, and muscle tension into a computer, which displays the output on a monitor. Patients learn how to alter these processes and reduce the body's stress response by changing their thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques may also help.

36 Replies


While it is probably a user trying to be the "squeaky wheel", noise can be an issue


Yes, even low volume noise can have adverse health effects. Ever sit in an office where the fluorescent lighting ballast is faulty and you hear a constant buzzing?

I'm not going to repost links to research as this one does a rather comprehensive job of doing so.


Sound can very easily cause health issues, headaches and upset stomachs for instance. The American Embassy in Cuba was "attacked" using sound.

When I was in the military, for fun in one of our comm vans, we would jack the frequency generator into the test speaker and set it at the upper limit of human hearing at a low volume. It would take about 30 minutes before the operators were at each others throats. The sound was annoying the crap out of them, which they then took out on their coworkers.

I suspect your user is just a whiny hypochondriac and why didn't they tell you about the sound when it first started?

Edited Jul 16, 2019 at 11:57 UTC


I once had a user claim that the new laptop we gave him affected the electricity in his house and he said if it got any worse that he'd consider suing the company.


Interesting reads in the shared articles.

UPDATE: The buzz was coming from the hard drive, you know, the sound a failing hard drive makes?
Apparently, his computer fell off the table over the weekend, but chose not to report to IT since it was "working fine" and nothing was broken


The cray cray has already crept in. too late for you my friend.


TEKRON wrote:

Interesting reads in the shared articles.

UPDATE: The buzz was coming from the hard drive, you know, the sound a failing hard drive makes?
Apparently, his computer fell off the table over the weekend, but chose not to report to IT since it was "working fine" and nothing was broken

So, created the issue then complained about it after the fact. Sounds normal. #facepalm


Mental wellness is part of health.

Annoying noises make me crazy and irritated.

This results in a degradation of my mental health.

If left unresolved, it can result in risks to the health of others if they choose to interact with me.

So yes, for the sake of everyone, fix the noises.

Clicking, buzzing, voices in my head. all bad.


Stress. (Which proves they are thinking more of themselves than others) They make no mention of how the noise is affecting those around them.


Rockn wrote:

The cray cray has already crept in. too late for you my friend.

Kill me now. This term makes me cringe so much! :)

I imagine that the person who came up with the term "Cray Cray" is the same person who started referring to Taylor Swift as "Tay Tay" which is in no way creepy at all. I imagine that he is a neckbeard wearing misanthrope who also happens to enjoy My Little Pony and always complains about being "forever alone". Sometimes, he carries fake swords and attaches fake furry tails to his trousers and walks around in public pretending he's not human. He most likely spends his days browsing 9Gag and talks about memes on his facebook page. He probably a person that says "lol" out loud. Probably unemployed and living in his mother's basement, he prides himself in his "sense of humor", where his favorite "joke" involves screaming "D'OH!" in a Homer Simpson voice. He often incorporates the french word "Le" prior to other words in order to make them funnier. For example, I went to le shopping mall and bought myself le neckerchief.


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