As humanity grows ever larger, and our infrastructures and industries race to keep pace with that growth, noise becomes an inevitable part of our environment. From the honks of car horns to the deep drilling of remote mining sites to your too-close neighbour’s endless snoring, noise has become impossible to ignore. And current research is showing that all this noise is having a hugely detrimental effect on our health – to the level that the World Health Organisation named it one of the most pressing environmental threats to our health. So with noise pollution feeling like it’s becoming just another part of everyday life, can we do anything to combat it? Of course, we can! Here’s how.
What Is Noise Pollution?
Before we dive into the solution, let’s re-examine the problem. Noise pollution happens whenever a sound is loud enough to disrupt human or animal life. Much of this noise comes from modern pieces of machinery like cars, planes, trains, heavy industrial equipment, household tools or appliances, loud music, noisy pets, or crowds of people. These loud noises signal danger to our brains, causing fight-or-flight responses and flooding our bodies with adrenaline and stress hormones that have negative effects on our well-being. The effects of these sounds can be wide-ranging – from health problems like high blood pressure or hearing damage in humans to disrupting animal life cycles by covering up mating calls or subverting their predator detection abilities. So how do we go about quieting things down?
Solution 0: Awareness and Education
Before implementing costly physical solutions, there needs to be education about noise pollution and its effects on us and our environment. By making these effects more well-known, we’re enabling people to make their own informed decisions about their daily lives. Seemingly small decisions like using a bike instead of driving, or training the family dog to bark less, can have a bigger impact than you might expect!
Solution 1: Materials
Soundproofing materials are one of our most effective weapons in the fight against noise pollution. Foams and insulation are regularly added to loud venues like bars and concert halls and are somewhat effective at reducing their impact, though they often still let bass vibrations through to the outside. Physical barriers are being added to highways around the world as an attempt to redirect the traffic noise away from surrounding areas, though there are continuing debates about their effectiveness. Road surface materials are also a key factor in road noise and can have a surprisingly high impact on noise levels depending on factors like porousness and aggregate material size.
By implementing the right materials and investing in advances in the industries that develop them, governments and corporations will be able to ensure their impact on the people and environment around them is minimised.
Solution 2: New Technologies
Noise pollution prevention is a ripe area for the development of new technologies, and many researchers around the world are making breakthroughs regularly. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have found a way to reduce the noise exiting an open window by up to 50%. A team from the University of Adelaide in South Australia have developed a new foam made from graphene that is up to 60% better than traditional soundproofing foams while being lighter, stronger, and more durable against heat and moisture. A research team from Boston University have developed a simple ring made of a mathematically-designed substance called a metamaterial, which, with some more development, they say could be affixed to a jet engine to drastically reduce its noise output. NoiseNet takes a less physical approach, but our noise detection and recognition algorithms are already proving to be a huge help to local governments in combating noise pollution.
Technologies like these are proving that there is a lot we don’t know yet about noise control, and the future is bright for their impact on our noise pollution problem.
Solution 3: Planning
Urban planning and development is the purview of local governments, giving them a great deal of power over the noise levels in suburban areas. Zoning areas like airports and industrial parks far away from residential zones and areas of natural or cultural interest is vital in protecting our environment from noise pollution. Diverting traffic away from areas with a high density of wildlife will also make their lives safer.
Additionally, developing procedures to incorporate noise-reduction materials and technologies into all new constructions is a powerful step towards a quieter home.
One other aspect of government noise control is legal enforcement. Empowering law enforcement to issue warnings and fines for vehicles, entertainment venues, and households that exceed residential noise limits is a common tactic in the fight against noise pollution. Additionally, NoiseNet is making it easier than ever for local government bodies to collect the data they need to address local noise pollution, by streamlining the boots-on-the-ground work needed to enforce regulations and reduce pollutants.
If you’re curious about how NoiseNet can help quieten your local area, head over to https://www.noisenet.com/. And if you’re in an Environmental Enforcement, Animal Control, or Smart City department and looking for a way to improve the quality and ease of your work, you can book a call with us by clicking here.