Noise pollution is one of the most annoying pollutions of the modern world and is one we don’t talk about much. Whether it’s from overhead jet planes, outdoor air conditioners, auto traffic, a dishwasher that can’t be turned on unless the house is empty, a bathroom fan that sounds like a 747 taking off, or music from the car next to us at the stop light, noise pollution is pervasive and can be damaging. In fact, studies have shown that children living in noisy environments tend to do poorly at school.
Though we may not be able to fix the noise pollution created by airports and highways, we can certainly create a quieter and healthier home for ourselves and our families. But before identifying ways we can reduce the noise pollution surrounding us, let’s identify how sound levels are quantified.
Sound levels are often measured and expressed in sones where, for example, a normal conversation will generate 1 to 4 sones. Hearing damage can start to occur at 32 sones and pain experienced at 676 sones (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sone for more info). Based on this, we’ll want to minimize the sone rating of so we can reduce the amount of noise generated. Sound can also be measured in decibels (dB’s) where a normal conversation is about 40dB’s, a jet plane taking off is generating 150dB’s and hearing loss starts to occur at 85dB’s. So like the sone, we’ll want to minimize the amount of decibels being generated to reduce the noise pollution in our environment.
Looking at ways in which we can reduce the noise pollution that surrounds us ranges from small, easily achieved and inexpensive fixes to larger, more complex and more expensive fixes. The fix you’ll want to undertake is going to be dependent on the particular noise you want to abate and your budget.
An example of a relatively inexpensive fix is to replace a noisy bathroom fan. Replacing an older, noisy fan with a newer, more energy efficient fan can radically change your bathing experience. In lieu of rushing to get out of the bathroom you’ll be able to stay in the shower or relax in the tub without an annoying overhead sound. The big box retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes as well as online sources have a wide variety of fans available. The sone ratings will range from 0.03 (super quiet) to 7.0 or more (really loud) so be sure to look at the sone rating for each fan you are considering. And the cost difference between quiet and not so quiet fans is small.
A slightly more costly but certainly easy way to abate indoor noise pollution is to replace an older, noisy dishwasher. Many dishwashers available in today’s market can be so quiet that you wouldn’t even know they are on when you’re standing right next to them (the drawer type by Fisher Paykel is one such example). Others can be so noisy that you’ll never be able to turn the dishwasher on when you’re at home. Of course you’ll pay more for a quiet dishwasher but your health will thank you for it.
Moving up the scale in cost is to install a quiet air conditioner. All too often we can’t enjoy our lanais and patios because of the noisy air conditioner in our back yard. Replacing the older, noisy unit with a more efficient and quieter one will allow us to be in near quiet while we enjoy reading, napping or having a quiet conversation. The quieter air conditioners available for home purchase are rated in the low 60dB range while the noisier units are in the mid to high 70dB range (remember that hearing damage starts to occur at 85dB). You can learn more at Lennox and Carrier as well as from agencies such as Consumers Reports.
Regardless of the fix, abating noise pollution and living in a quieter home will pay dividends in reduced stress, tension and health risk.