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02.03.2021

ABC by Paley – NOISE

Noise, like cold coffee and toys found in unexpected places inherent in parenting. Children specialize in producing loud sounds not only when they get angry. It can be also fun and joy. It would seem that travelling all day among sounds does not bother children. However, the noise unfavorably affects the toddlers and parents.

Each of us has a different sensitivity to sounds. What is a pleasant hum for some, will be unbearable for others. Therefore, it is worth taking a look at yourself and your children to see whether we react similarly to this issue or whether we perceive sounds in a different way. Understanding how we respond to certain sounds will help us avoid some conflicts and misunderstandings.

Of course, despite the differences in our sensitivity to observation, we have objective lists of how badly seeing is harmful to our hearing. To make it easier, it can be said that if we cannot hear clearly what the interlocutor standing close to us is saying , and we ourselves raise our voicemeans that the noise level is already detrimental to our health.

Nowadays, it is difficult to escape noise living in the city. Those unfortunate enough to live by a busy road or airport know very well how troublesome cars’ sounds are and that they do not  stay quiet even in the middle of the night. On top of that, the bothersome noise of mowers outside the window, endless renovation in the apartment next door, cars honking, traffic signals and dogs barking in the neighborhood. However, harmful noise comes not only  from the outside. Loud and constant or frequent and unexpected noises in our apartments also affect our hearing and well-being: too loud music, non-standard TV, vacuum cleaner or blender…

The excess of sounds in our environment is a powerful stressor for our body. And as more and more people live in high-profile parts of the world, researchers have turned to this topic to see how  living/existing in noise affects humans. They sadly concluded that there is a link between noise and increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The obvious side effects of noise include tinnitus and hearing impairment. It also turns out that intense sounds affect children’s cognitive development. Ambient noises distract from everything that children are doing at any given moment and thus negatively affect their ability to focus and even their speech development and learning to read. This is partly because noise interferes with hearing certain sounds properly and thus makes it difficult for children to learn to speak properly.

To help children take care of their proper development and well-being, it is worth regulating the noise level in their environment. Staying in rooms where it is constantly noisy for a long time can lead to irritation, nervousness and more frequent outbursts of anger in children (also in adults!).

The various sounds we hear in the apartment at night make it difficult to fall asleep, and then contribute to the fact that sleep may not be as restorative as it should be. The sense of hearing is very sensitive to sudden sounds. This is to ensure our safety. Therefore, even when we are asleep, our brain uses its ears to monitor the environment and check whether any danger is approaching. At the moment when we hear the sound of a motorbike, an ambulance or an airplane flying over the house, we wake up (although we will not remember it in the morning). There are a number of changes in our body that are to prepare us to fight or run away from potential danger. This state of arousal does not have a positive effect on sleep. Its quality and depth drop, and as a result, we stop getting enough sleep. It is the exposure to night noise that may be one of the reasons why people do not feel refreshed despite having 8-9 hours of sleep.

And as scary as it all sounds, we don’t have to endure the noise passively. We all find ourselves in a noisy environment. If we, or our loved ones are extremely sensitive to loud sounds, it is worth having noise-cancelling headphones or the most ordinary earplugs. If, however, we want to reduce the noise level in our immediate vicinity, try to turn off the TV and radio whenever possible. On balconies and in gardens, we can plant taller shrubs or trees, which over time will help to suppress the unwanted sounds. The awareness of the harmfulness of noise is constantly growing, which is why there are more and more options on the market that can help us to silence the house. Roller blinds or curtains will not only protect us from bothersome light from behind the window, but also reduce noise. Special seals that can be installed in the door thresholds are also a good and inexpensive option. And, when it happens that we spend the whole day with children who are having a bad day and screaming since the morning, do not hesitate to lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes and try to find some silence there. Cutting off the stimuli that overburden us and upset us will help us regain balance. On the other hand, when shopping, pay attention to the stores that have introduced the so-called “Quiet hours”. They are aimed primarily at people diagnosed with autism to help them function in a place full of various stimuli. However, such good practices would be worth introducing on a daily basis, for the benefit of all people.

Being in silence and enjoying it is something worth learning and using as often as possible. This will benefit not only parents but also children. Silence helps you focus on the tasks you are doing and on doing them more accurately and correctly. It helps to calm down.. In addition, it is easier for us to focus on our own feelings, emotions, and body sensations. Not everyone likes it, so it is tempting to suppress your own thoughts or emotions with music or a TV playing in the background. Such strategies are effective in distracting us and are sometimes helpful. It happens, however, that they distance us from solving the problem. Silence gives time to think. And although it can be awkward at times, it is worth learning to be in it and try not to force it. It is often in silence that the best ideas are born.

And when you hide in the privacy of your home, think with your children about the activities and games that will allow your ears to rest. Try different ideas to find the one that works best for you. Perhaps it will be puzzles, drawing together, looking at the starry sky, listening to the sounds of silence, or your breathing. The latter is worth trying, especially before going to bed!

Schmidt F.P. et al.(2013) Effect of nighttime aircraft noise exposure on endothelial function and stress hormone release in healthy adults, European Heart Journal

Chepesiuk R. (2005) Decibel Hell: The Effects of Living in a Noisy World, Environmental Health Perspectives

Hammer M.S., Swinburn T.K., R.L. Neitzel (2013), Environmental Noise Pollution in the United States: Developing an Effective Public Health Response, Environmental Health Perspectives

Buxton O.M. et al. (2012), Sleep Disruption due to Hospital Noises, Annals of Internal Medicine