What Is Meant By Environmental Noise?

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Noise Pollution, Pollution

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Environmental noise, a pervasive issue in modern society, refers to unwanted or excessive sounds that disrupt the natural soundscape of our surroundings. It originates from various human activities such as transportation, industry, construction, and recreation, which pose severe risks to wildlife, the ecosystem, and the well-being of humans. As urbanization and economic development continue to expand, the damaging effects of noise pollution are getting increasingly pronounced. Addressing this complex problem requires a comprehensive understanding of its causes, impacts, and mitigation strategies.

Environmental Noise – A Orchestration of Unwanted Sounds

Environmental noise refers to unwanted or excessive environmental sound, typically from human activities such as transportation (e.g., road traffic, aircraft, railway), industrial operations, construction sites, and recreational activities. It encompasses a wide range of sounds, including but not limited to vehicle traffic, machinery noise, loud music, and urban activities. It can adversely affect human health, wildlife, and the natural environment. Efforts to mitigate environmental noise often involve various strategies such as sound insulation, urban planning measures, noise regulations, and technological advancements in noise reduction.

Specific Types of Environmental Noise

Environmental noise encompasses various sources of unwanted sound that disrupt the tranquility of our surroundings. Here are specific types and their impacts:

1. Road Traffic

Accounts for approximately 80% of urban noise pollution. Over 113 million people are exposed to harmful levels of traffic noise daily, as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

2. Aviation

Airplane noise near airports can exceed 100 decibels (dB). Over 100 million people in the US live near major airports, experiencing sleep and cardiovascular health disruptions.

3. Construction and Industry

Industrial noise, including jackhammers and factory machinery, can lead to hearing loss and health issues for workers. Exposure to noise from night-time road traffic is also significant, with approximately 70 million EU citizens exposed to harmful L-night levels above 50 dB, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

4. Recreational Activities

Loud music from bars, concerts, fireworks, and lawnmower noise contributes to environmental noise and disrupts communities and wildlife habitats.

These environmental noise sources collectively undermine the quality of life, pose health risks, and disturb the ecological balance. Addressing this issue requires regulatory measures, technological innovations, urban planning strategies, and public awareness campaigns.

The Discordant Chorus of Impacts

Environmental noise profoundly impacts human health, wildlife, and ecosystems, disrupting the delicate balance of our environment. Here are the key consequences of this pervasive issue:

1. Human Health: A Symphony of Suffering

a. Hearing Loss:

  • Chronic exposure to environmental noise, such as traffic and industrial sounds, contributes significantly to global hearing loss.
  • Approximately 700 million people worldwide, nearly 1 in 10, have hearing loss, with noise pollution being a major factor.
  • In Europe, over 1 million healthy years of life are lost annually due to noise-induced hearing loss, highlighting the substantial impact on public health.
  • In the European Union, noise is a main cause of disabling hearing loss, affecting over 34.4 million people in 2019.

b. Sleep Disturbances:

  • Noise pollution disrupts sleep patterns, with chronic exposure above 55 decibels (dB) significantly affecting sleep quality.
  • Adverse effects include daytime fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity.

c. Cardiovascular Issues:

Long-term exposure to noise pollution is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Research indicates a direct correlation between traffic noise exposure and cardiovascular health, with a European study finding a 12% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease for every 10 dB increase in traffic noise.

d. Stress and Mental Health:

It can lead to heightened stress levels, anxiety, and depression, impacting mental well-being. Studies, such as those conducted in the UK, have linked exposure to aircraft noise with higher rates of mental health problems among residents living near airports. The constant din of urban environments exacerbates these mental health issues, underscoring the need for effective noise mitigation strategies to protect public health.

The symphony of suffering caused by environmental noise encompasses a range of health impacts, from hearing loss to cardiovascular issues and mental health disorders. Addressing this issue requires comprehensive measures to mitigate noise pollution and safeguard the well-being of individuals and communities.

2. Wildlife: A Chorus Silenced

a. Communication Breakdown:

It disrupts vital communication channels in the animal kingdom, particularly affecting species reliant on low-frequency sounds. Whales, for example, use low-frequency sounds for navigation and social interaction but are adversely impacted by underwater noise from ships, leading to disorientation and collisions.

b. Hunting and Foraging Frustration:

Animals face challenges in finding food and mates due to the masked soundscape created by environmental noise. Birds struggle to locate prey amidst traffic noise, while bats experience difficulty navigating using echolocation in noisy environments, hindering their foraging efforts.

c. Habitat Abandonment:

Excessive noise pollution can compel animals to abandon their habitats in search of quieter areas. A study in Australia revealed that koalas are more likely to vacate regions with high traffic noise levels, impacting their populations and distribution.

The chorus of environmental noise silences the natural soundscape, disrupting crucial behaviors and habitats of wildlife. From impeding communication to hindering hunting and foraging, noise pollution threatens biodiversity. Effective conservation efforts must include measures to mitigate noise pollution and preserve the ecological balance essential for the survival of diverse animal species.

3. Environment: A Disrupted Harmony

a. Pollination Problems:

Noise interference disrupts the intricate pollination process, affecting the relationship between plants and pollinators. Bees, vital for plant reproduction and agricultural yields, struggle to locate flowers amidst noise pollution, jeopardizing ecosystem stability and crop production.

b. Predator-Prey Imbalance:

It disrupts the natural cues and signals crucial for predator-prey interactions. Predators may miss key auditory cues from their prey, leading to inefficiencies in hunting and potential imbalances in predator and prey populations.

c. Stress on Ecosystems:

The constant din of noise pollution stresses entire ecosystems, with far-reaching consequences. Studies indicate that noise pollution can alter animal behavior, disrupting food webs, nutrient cycling, and overall ecosystem health and resilience.

Also Read: Changes In Animal Behavior Due To Noise Pollution

The disrupted symphony of the environment, characterized by noise pollution, undermines critical ecological processes and stability. From impairing pollination and predator-prey dynamics to inducing stress on ecosystems, noise pollution poses significant threats to biodiversity and ecosystem health. Comprehensive conservation efforts must include measures to mitigate noise pollution and preserve the integrity of natural habitats and ecosystems.

Solutions and Mitigation Strategies for Environmental Noise

Mitigating environmental noise requires a multifaceted approach involving various solutions and strategies tailored to specific sources of noise pollution. Some key mitigation strategies include:

Solutions and Mitigation Strategies for Environmental Noise

By combining these solutions and mitigation strategies, policymakers, urban planners, industries, and communities can work together to address environmental noise pollution and create healthier, more livable environments for all.


Environmental noise remains a pressing concern with far-reaching implications for public health, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning. As we strive to create more sustainable and livable communities, it is imperative to prioritize effective noise mitigation measures and incorporate sound management practices into urban planning and development. By fostering collaboration among policymakers, industries, communities, and environmental advocates, we can work towards reducing noise pollution and restoring the natural harmony of our environment for present and future generations.

Also Read: Acoustics of Noise



  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.

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