Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Have you ever stopped and realized just how noisy the world is? You're probably used to all the sounds but when you stop for a moment and just take it in… It's pretty noisy, isn't it? What is all that noise doing to us? And could it be impacting our health in some negative way? The most obvious way that noise can be harmful is when it causes damage to our hearing. Experts generally agree that humans can be exposed to noise levels at or below 70 decibels for any duration of time without risk of hearing damage, which is around the higher end of normal conversation volumes. However, when we're exposed to 85 decibels or more for over 8 hours, that's when we start risking hearing damage. 85 decibels is about the noise level of a busy road with lots of trucks going by. At 150 decibels, or about the volume of a jet on takeoff from 25 meters away, your eardrums can rupture. But can noisy environments harm more than just your ears? As it turns out, they can. For one thing, they can make it hard to get a good night's sleep. Just because you're unconscious doesn't mean your ears stop working. Otherwise, alarm clocks would be useless today and our predators would have a free late-night snack back in the days before the door was invented. Because this channel is always open, loud noises can interfere with sleep patterns by decreasing the amount of time people spend in the slow-wave and REM stages and increasing the amount of time people spend in stage 1 or awake. Lack of sleep brings on a whole host of problems like impaired memory, creativity, and judgment. Whether asleep or awake, noise can also trigger our fight-or-flight response, leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Even if you're used to sleeping through bumps in the night, your body can still have these responses while you're unconscious. All this means noise could be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Living somewhere noisy can have tangible impacts on the quality and duration of our lives. In 2011 the World Health Organization released a report that concluded that every year the population of Europe has a combined one million years of healthy life shaved off their lifespans just due to noise. The authors ranked noise from road traffic as the second biggest threat to public health after air pollution. In 2020 the European Environment Agency linked noise to 12,000 premature deaths annually. Add in the fact that noise can also affect how animals hunt, navigate, and find mates, and the term “noise pollution” seems pretty apt. Noise is also getting harder and harder to escape. One nonprofit, Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, created a map of places in the United States that are naturally quiet based on their distance from road, rail, and flyover traffic. Only tiny pockets of the country meet their standard. Recently, some local and national governments have taken the initiative of creating quiet places for the benefit of their residents, like Yangmingshan National Park in Taiwan, which the nonprofit Quiet Parks International has certified as the world's first Urban Quiet Park. Quiet Parks International is aiming to certify about 50 such parks in the near future, possibly ones close to bustling cities like New York, Miami, and Stockholm. Speaking of Nordic countries, if you're looking for some peace and quiet now you could head to Finland, which actually ran a tourism campaign in 2011 highlighting how quiet the country is. Even its residents are famously laconic. But if you can't get away, can't wait for a park, and can't get a good night's sleep, then earplugs are cheaper than a plane ticket and readily available. If you want to splurge a bit more, you might be in the market for noise-canceling headphones. Amanda explains how this incredible technology works here. Are you worried about how noisy your neighborhood is or do you sleep like a baby every night? Let us know in the comments, be sure to subscribe, and I'll see you next time on Seeker.