What Are the Different Types of Noise Pollution?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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Noise pollution might emanate from commercial activities, domestic conditions, and street sounds that become disruptive. Pollution can exist inside a structure or extend outside, where it affects the public. Noise pollution commonly stems from machinery, construction activities, aircraft, and entertainment venues. Regulations on noise levels protect citizens in many regions.

The word noise comes from the Latin term for nausea. Prolonged exposure to high levels of sound might cause irritability and affect concentration. Sudden bursts of noise pollution might also disrupt a person’s work productivity and provoke tension and anxiety. Over time, exposure to noise pollution may cause a temporary or permanent hearing loss. Sound that registers about 15 decibels resembles a whisper, while 80 decibels or more might be considered painful.

Industrial noise commonly comes from compressors stored outside buildings. Machinery sound can also permeate through walls lacking insulation, open doors, and windows. Health and safety laws commonly require ear protection for employees in industrial plants where noise might be harmful. In outdoor construction areas, air hammers and jackhammers produce loud sounds that may require ear protection.

Domestic noise pollution frequently occurs where homes or apartments sit close together. In some residential complexes, neighbors might be disturbed by sounds from plumbing fixtures, footsteps, or air conditioning units. The everyday noise of vacuum cleaners, blenders, or other appliances may be audible through shared walls. Loud music, which might be enjoyed by one person, may be considered an irritating din to another.


Some street noise is unavoidable in cities and areas with heavy automobile traffic. Buses, motorcycles, garbage trucks, and emergency vehicles contribute to increased levels of street noise. These sounds may become amplified in regions where tall buildings trap the sound. In some areas, loudspeakers on vehicles or emanating from businesses contribute to overall noise levels.

Other forms of transportation create noise that might exceed healthy levels. Engines on jet airplanes, which register 120 decibels or more, might drown out normal conversation when planes pass over a business or residence. The screeching sound commonly heard near railroad switching equipment might also contribute to noise pollution. Train engines, whistles, and horns typically create unhealthy noise near railroad tracks and stations.

In the entertainment industry, amplified music is the most common source of noise pollution. Loud conditions typically occur near bars and clubs that provide live entertainment, and near concert halls. A marching band represents another type of entertainment noise that might intrude on a person’s sense of peace and quiet.

Some jurisdictions work to limit noise through zoning. They typically plan industrial operations and commercial entertainment venues away from residential areas, schools, and hospitals. Public nuisance laws commonly regulate the level of sound permitted in residential, commercial, and industrial zones to protect the public from noise pollution, and provide a method to voice complaints.


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