If you live by a noisy highway, the constant sound can become a nuisance. The noise coming from vehicles zooming by all hours of the day can actually hinder a person’s quality of life overtime.
Studies have found links between noise pollution and overall health. They have found that highway noise has links to depression and a slew of other health problems including a raised risk of heart attacks among people over 50, risk of obesity, and stress (Poon, 2015).
Exposure to Traffic Noise
A 2012 study found that those exposed to traffic noise were 25% more likely than those in quieter neighborhoods to suffer from depression. A study in Germany focused on 3,300 individuals who showed no signs of depression and lived in three of the most populated cities in Western Germany. Five years later they were asked to take the survey again. Higher depression rates were found in more than a third of participants.
The study found that their depression was linked to the exposure of 55 decibels or more of traffic noise. Approximately a quarter of participants were exposed to traffic noise at night only (Poon, 2015).
Another study done by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine along with Imperial College London and King’s College London researched long-term exposure to moderately loud and very loud traffic noise in the daytime.
Exposure to Higher Noise Levels
They found that prolonged exposure to this kind of noise shortened life expectancy (Mulcahy, 2016). The study also found that an exposure to traffic noise over 60 decibels increased risk of death by four percent.
Co-author of the study, Jaana Halonen, said that the risk of death from ischemic heart disease was increased by three percent in adults and four percent in elderly adults as opposed to areas with noise levels under 55 decibels (Mulcahy, 2016).
Exposure higher noise levels can cause many problems. That leaves the question of what can actually be done about it. There are some coping mechanisms people can practice to help with the detriments of highway noise.
If done regularly, these methods could help increase the quality of life for those affected by highway noise. Some suggested methods are:
- Breathing exercises
- Distracting your ears with music or white noise
- Living a healthy lifestyle
According to UCLA’s Dr. Emeran Mayer, abdominal breathing (breathing with the diaphragm) signals to the brain to go into a relaxed state. Practicing these methods regularly can lower the risk of health issues such as stroke and diabetes.
Highway Noise Solutions
When it is time for a more permanent solution, there are some steps that can be taken. One step would be filing a noise complaint which will let your city know that they may need to direct their attention to the problem and see how many people it could be affecting. Contacting your local Department of Transportation to inform them of the problem could lead to a solution.
Letting them know there are concerns could lead to a noise ordinance or a noise level test being done. If a noise assessment warrants it necessary, sound barriers could be built along the highway.
The Department of Transportation has a policy that warrants sound barrier walls necessary or not when it comes to Type II projects. A Type II or “Retrofit” project is when the sound barrier is added to an existing highway instead of being added while a highway is being built.
These types of projects are not mandatory under federal regulations. An example of a condition within this policy is that the noise level has to equal or exceed 60 decibels (Fazzalaro, 2005).
The federal government will look at the issue and decide whether or not it will provide funding. State and local government will sometimes listen to noise complaints from residents and decides whether funding for a noise abatement solution is necessary.
If a study finds that sound barrier walls are needed, an absorptive sound barrier can be a good solution. Absorptive sound barrier walls can help absorb sound before it reaches your ears.
Sound Absorbing Barrier Walls
Sound barrier walls help to absorb the sound coming from traffic before it reaches nearby neighborhoods. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the overall public opinion on noise barriers is relatively good.
Many residents affected by highway noise say that noise barrier walls have made sleeping, talking, and overall living conditions better. Other benefits residents described are more privacy, improved views, and better looking lawns (fhwa.dot.gov). Sound barrier walls can drastically reduce noise because they possess technology that absorbs noise before it gets to your ears.
For more information on how absorptive sound barrier walls work, follow this link: https://www.soundfighter.com/our-technology/absorptive-vs-reflective/
Want to see just how much noise pollution from highways is near you? There is now a map of the United States that shows the various noise levels across the country.
The map was created by data from the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Federal Highway Administration. The data collected shows the daily noise levels people across the U.S. are exposed to from highway and aviation noise. Areas in red and purple are among the higher noise ranges.
The map can be accessed here: https://maps.bts.dot.gov/arcgis/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a303ff5924c9474790464cc0e 9d5c9fb
Eriksen, Deirdre. Road Traffic Issues in Residential Areas. Jan. 10 2018. Soundear.com.https://soundear.com/road-traffic-noise/
Fazzalaro, J.J. Funding For Highway Noise Barriers. Sept. 29 2005. Cga.ct.gov.https://www.cga.ct.gov/2005/rpt/2005-R-0679.htm
Mulcahy, Lisa. You Can’t Ignore All That Road Noise: It Could Shorten Your Life. Jan. 9 2016. latimes.com. https://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-road-noise-20160109-story.html
Noise Barrier Design – Visual Quality. June 28 2017. Fhwa.dot.gov. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise/noise_barriers/design_construction/keepdown.cfm
Poon, Linda. 2015. The Sound of Heavy Traffic Might Take a Toll on Mental Health.