Sound pollution affecting our brains

A study at the University of Texas, Dallas has concluded that noise pollution is more than a nuisance, It affects our brains’ ability to function efficiently—especially in decoding speech.

The constant sounds emanating from increased urbanization, increased sound technology and increased mechanization (even on the farms), leads to sleep problems, loss of concentration, and increase of headaches and irritability.

SoundPollutionAffectingBrainsThe UTD scientists found that consistent previous noise can even impair how the brain processes human speech after  we find a quiet environment!

The noises that are now part of our everyday lives can come from traffic, on the ground and in the air, machinery used in construction and farming, high-powered  sound technology, the screeching of television, particularly the commercials, and even noisy gatherings where everyone is talking at once.

Consider the mother in a group of noisy children who suddenly loses her patience because her brain has had all it can tolerate. Well, according to the latest studies on too much sound, her brain has responded in a natural  physiological way, the extent of which is determined by the individual’s own unique personality tolerance.

Even emergency vehicles in heavily urbanized areas often have trouble with their urgent communications competing with urban noises.

A paper published this month in Ear and Hearing suggests that noise-induced hearing loss can keep the brain from recognizing familiar speech sounds, as consistent loud sounds damage the tiny hairs in our ears that act as receptors. Once they are damaged, they cannot grow back. The auditory cortex of the ear has neurons at one end that respond to low-frequency noises and at the other end are neurons that react to high-frequency noises.

“As we’ve made machines and electronic devices more powerful, the potential to cause permanent damage has increased tremendously,” said Dr. Michael Kilgard and Margaret Fonde Jonsson, professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “Even the smaller MP3 players can reach volume levels that are highly damaging to the ear in a matter of minutes.”

So, even though we suspected and have taken for granted that noise pollution contributes to deafness, it’s rather scary to contemplate that it also contributes to making us dumb or confused.

Maybe we should all seek out more quiet in our lives.


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