What is an Environmental Noise?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Roads, airports, railways, and many other urban agglomerations are often the source of environmental noise. Also known as noise pollution, environmental noise is any strong displeasing sound created by machines, humans, or other animals. Noise pollution is considered problematic, particularly when it interferes with the balance of animal life or human activity.

The most common source of environmental noises is worldwide transportation systems. These include aircraft, railways, and motor vehicles. Other sources of environmental noise include car alarms, factory machinery, construction work, thunder, emergency sirens, grounds keeping equipment, office equipment, barking dogs, loudspeakers, appliances, surround sound systems and other audio equipment, and power tools. Human talking and activities can be considered environmental noise when they prove to be disruptive to others.

Considered a worldwide problem, environmental noises result in heavy costs, environmental impact, and loss of quality of life. In many areas, high noise pollution is attributed to poor urban planning. Industrial and residential buildings built too closely together can aggregate excessive environmental noise. Many workers who are exposed to chronic noise pollution have also lost their hearing.


Noise can have an averse effect on the health of the people and animals affected by it. Depending on the degree of the noise, as well as its length, and how it is used, it can cause psychological and physiological damage. Environmental noise can lead to aggression, high stress levels, hearing loss, hypertension, and sleep disturbances. On a more minor level, it can also create general annoyance during daily activities for those who experience it.

Pollution caused by noise is also a concern in environmentalism. The sound can cause undue stress on animals. This stress leads to uncharacteristic behaviors and interference with natural animal instincts, resulting in death, imbalances in prey and predator relationships, and disruption in animal reproduction. Some species, such as several types of whale, have died as a result irregular activity following exposure to military sonar.

Domestic noise, such as human activities, dogs barking, and building acoustics, is typically handled locally. Larger cases of environmental noise, such as those created by construction zones and fairgrounds, may be dealt with on a local or wider, governmental level. Regulations may be put in place regarding the time periods these areas are allowed to operate, the decibel level of operation allowed, and other factors. Laws regarding noise pollution vary by region.

Environmental noise laws are implemented and enforced based on cultural, economical, and political factors in their respective areas. Reducing traffic noise, manufacturing quieter machines and vehicles, and planning the development of urban areas are some ways that the problem has been addressed.


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