Silence is golden

Environmental noise is a part of everyday life; from road traffic noise, to construction work on your doorstep, we experience different sound levels all day, every day.

It’s only in recent years that the severity of the impact of continuous noise pollution has been brought to light; at best, environmental noise pollution is an irritation – at worst, it poses a serious threat to health.

The impact of noise is often felt most in busy urban areas or in and around industrial or construction sites. With many of us once again confined 24/7 to our homes to endure lockdown 3.0, it is likely that noisy interruptions are being noticed far more frequently by home owners.

In cities, more housing is having to be built in close proximity to transport infrastructure, to accommodate for the ever growing population. It’s therefore becoming increasingly important to assess how we can limit the impact that constant noise has on our health.

Excessive noise, while not immediately life threatening, has harmful impacts far beyond hearing loss. Professor Dame Sally Davies, former UK CMO, said it was behind only air pollution in terms of damage to health. Evidence from studies also suggests that noise pollution can have a detrimental impact on modern living, from house prices, to physical health and wellbeing.
Fear not, there is a solution to limiting noise and the damage it can cause to physical and mental wellbeing. Keep reading to find out how installing simple but effective measures in and around your home can help reduce unwanted interruptions, and transform your home into a blissful oasis of calm.

Noise in numbers
According to Dr Yutong Samuel Cai, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, there is “consistent evidence” that sustained noise from a busy road can affect human health more dramatically than being exposed to exhaust fumes.

Cai found that long-term exposure to traffic noise can modify blood biochemistry and even lead to heart attacks, while another study, from Barts and the London School of Medicine, linked noise pollution and type 2 diabetes. This is worrying in the current climate. With more of us being actively told to remain at home, activity levels are low and with schools closed in these winter months, outdoor spaces are being made use of more than ever before.

Unexpected, irregular noise can also have far-reaching effects. Construction sites with heavy machinery and HGV traffic, airports, busy public areas, such as 24-hour supermarkets, and bars can produce disruptive sounds during unsociable hours. This can affect local residents’ sleep patterns, making it harder to relax and unwind, or in worse case scenarios, have serious implications on health and wellbeing.

We can certainly attest to the spike in interest in soundproofing options across the country since the very first official lockdown last March. Our acoustic enquiries soared by 41% as an increasing number of homeowners looked into viable options to minimise noise as they spent the majority of their time at home.

‘Alexa volume 20%’
Noise is a pollution which studies have proven can cause serious harm; much like any other pollution. It’s therefore essential to limit exposure, in order to minimise the impact this can have on people’s lives.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends around 30-40 decibels (dB) for good quality sleeping conditions at night, and similar during the day. Despite this, over 125 million Europeans regularly experience noise levels above 55dB. The European Environment Agency blames 10,000 premature deaths in Europe each year on noise, citing the most pervasive source as road-traffic noise.

Controlling Noise
The most obvious way to escape noise pollution is to avoid areas that produce constant sound, but this isn’t always possible, especially when the majority of us are now living and working at home.

The impact of noise can be easily reduced through building design and layout, so it’s worth thinking carefully about the placement of furniture, for example, putting large items of furniture, such as dressers and cupboards, near walls will help to reduce the amount of noise being heard from adjacent rooms or structures. Additionally, laying rugs on hard floors or carpet can also help to reduce noise reverberation.

Alternatively, acoustic experts, Oscar Acoustics, suggest the use of wallpaper to help absorb sound in the home, whilst the installation of double-glazing and shutters can help block out external noises. However, if you’re suffering from noisy upstairs neighbours a different approach is needed if you’re to retain the peaceful harmony of your home or study. As sound passes through as vibrations in ceilings and floors, you’ll want to reduce the impact of sound pressure waves from penetrating floorboards and joists. Thankfully, there are solutions available, such as acoustic ceiling hangers which can reduce the amount of noise being heard overhead by creating an isolated ‘floating ceiling’. Insulating cavity fillers are also another option – filling gaps in cavity gaps through specially designed sprays. Both options can be used in unison and will dramatically improve your home comfort.

Outdoors, one simple solution, if you have the space, is to plant trees as they can work as effective sound dampeners.

Nip it in the bud
If you’re looking for a more robust external solution to combat the noisy outside world, acoustic barriers are a highly effective way to reduce the impact of a range of unwanted sounds such as traffic noise, generators, machinery, railways, and neighbours
Look for certified acoustic solutions that have been designed to deliver good noise reduction performance, are sustainable and secure, whilst also blending in with the surrounding environment with an attractive timber façade.

As cities and technology continue to develop, noise pollution must be taken more seriously; its impact has been assessed by the WHO and shown to have very real and very serious public health implications.

By Peter Jackson, managing director of Jackson Fencing