Noise and your health
Noise can be defined as any unwanted sound. Sources of noise include aircraft, road vehicles, rail cars, construction and landscaping equipment, home and car stereo systems, media players, household appliances, and power tools.
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Depending on the sound level and the exposure duration, noise can cause any of the following adverse effects on physical, mental or social well-being:
- interference with communication;
- disturbance of rest, sleep, and concentration; or
- hearing damage
Some research suggests that the adverse effects described above may also cause sufficient stress on the body to increase the risk of developing stress-related illnesses.
Canadians are surrounded by various sources of noise, including:
- music and other forms of entertainment such as concerts, stereos, and television
- land, air and water vehicles such as trucks, trains, airplanes and boats
- people and animals
- machinery, power tools, and factories
Even some children's toys have the potential to emit hazardous sound levels. Excessive exposure to noise, even for short durations, can have potential health effects. Significant, adverse, irreversible effects usually occur gradually in response to excessive exposure to noise. However, even short duration exposure (i.e gun fire) can have serious irreversible effects.
Protect your hearing
Take the following steps to protect your hearing:
- Limit the amount of time you spend on activities that are extremely noisy.
- Keep your car and home audio at enjoyable but safe levels.
- Wear hearing protection, like earplugs or earmuffs, when you're at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. The protection device should be as well fitted as possible. See an audiologist if you need help with this.
- Schedule some quiet time if you experience temporary hearing loss or tinnitus after work or other activities. Give your ears a chance to recover fully.
- Avoid buying children's toys that produce high sound levels. Look for toys that have volume-control features or an on-off switch so that sound can be kept low or turned off. Remember, children may hold toys closer to their ears than adults.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your hearing. Early signs of hearing loss include:
- trouble following a conversation when there is background noise (like at a social gathering or in a cafeteria)
- a sense that people mumble when they speak
Prevention is the only way to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss. There is no way to know how sensitive your ears are to damage from sounds, until the damage is done.
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