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Noise has negative impact on cognition and health. Psychologists have role in addressing problem.

July 6, 2011|Uncategorized

A new article highlights the negative impact that exposure to noise has on cognitive development and health.

Noise decreases learning among children who attend schools near trains and airports. Exposure to noise also increases blood pressure and is related to cardiac problems. The following is an excerpt from a recent article about the problem. A link to the full article is at the end of the excerpt.


We’ve all been annoyed by a neighbor’s late-night partying or early-morning lawn mowing. But it turns out that living in a noisy neighborhood — particularly one plagued by train horns blaring or airplanes overhead — is more than exasperating. It might actually be deadly, according to a report released in April by the World Health Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

A steady exposure to “noise pollution,” the report concludes, may lead to higher blood pressure and fatal heart attacks. The report analyzed a large number of epidemiological studies, most of which were conducted in Europe.

The report also confirmed what several psychologists have known for decades: Chronic noise impairs a child’s development and may have a lifelong effect on educational attainment and overall health. Numerous studies now show that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills and have lower reading scores.

“There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population,” the report concludes, citing children as particularly vulnerable to the effects of chronic urban and suburban racket.

As air traffic increases worldwide and politicians consider building noise-producing wind turbines in more residential neighborhoods see “Noise isnt always loud”, the negative effects of noise will only continue to grow unless more is done to abate it, says environmental psychologist Arline Bronzaft, PhD, of the City University of New York. Her now-classic study from the 1970s was among the first to report the harmful effects of subway noise on children’s learning, and she has advised four New York City mayors on noise policy. New noise research in the United State has been scarce, however, since nearly 30 years ago federal funding for noise pollution research was cut after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was eliminated during the Reagan administration.

Still, Bronzaft says, as a matter of public health, psychologists must continue to stay involved in efforts to reduce environmental noise.

“Noise is a psychological phenomenon,” says Bronzaft, a contributor to the book “Why Noise Matters” 2011. “While the ear picks up the sound waves and sends it to the temporal lobe for interpretation, it’s the higher senses of the brain that determine whether that sound is unwanted, unpleasant or disturbing, and that’s why psychologists need to be heavily involved in this issue.”

Read full article at: Silence, please.

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