Turn It Down! The Effects of Noise on Your Child
A government study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Acute Pain Management in Infants, Children and Adolescents,” found that, “The use of therapeutic audio could be helpful in reducing pain and stress, while improving healing and reducing the need for traditional pain medication interventions.”
The word noise, on the other hand, is derived from the Latin word, noxia, meaning “injury” or “hurt.” It is defined by the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) as being, “Any sound—independent of loudness—that may produce an undesired physiological or psychological effect in an individual and that may interfere with the social ends of an individual or group.” Don’t forget to add in the vacuum cleaner, coffee bean grinder, road traffic, screeching airplanes, pounding rock bands, and your neighbors too-loud stereo system.
Health Effects of Noise on Children
“Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience,” said Dr. William H. Stewart, MD, former US Surgeon General. “Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”
Studies and research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the NIPH, the Department of Public Health and the National Noise Center, the National Center for Environmental Health, and the World Health Organization (WHO), unanimously list the harmful effects of noise as multiple, far-reaching and, in some cases, irreversible. Those can include hearing loss or impairment, interference with speech communication, disturbance of rest and sleep, mental-health and performance effects, effects on residential behavior and annoyance, performance reduction as well as interference with intended activities.
Studies are also underway to corroborate a theory potentially linking noise to another serious condition, Menieres Disease, which causes fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), bouts of vertigo, and headaches.
Because noise causes stress, it elicits an increased adrenaline reaction, affecting the cardiovascular system, changing heart rate, and causing a rise in blood pressure.
Studies conducted by Dr. Lorraine E. Maxwell, PhD, and Dr. G.W. Evans, PhD, and published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology state that the effects of noise on preschool children’s pre-reading skills go beyond studying the obvious noise effects of hearing impairment on children, dividing non-auditory results of noise exposure into three categories:
- physiological effects
- motivational effects
- cognitive effects
Drs. Maxwell and Evans list the most important physiological effect of chronic noise exposure as being elevated blood pressure levels, which “appear to continue this pattern into adulthood, thereby increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease.” Motivational effects render children “more vulnerable to learned helplessness,” while cognitive effects impair memory, may cause attention deficits in children exposed to chronic noise levels, and may negatively affect academic achievement, particularly reading,” according to the duo.
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