Noise pollution in U.S. National Parks

Noise pollution in U.S. National Parks

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | October 19th, 2018

Duane L. Smelser

Duane's personal and professional life has been about making a difference in the quality of people’s lives. After 15 years as a Team Building and Communication Consultant to organizations,his wife Donna introduced him to the idea of being a Hearing Instrument Specialist.The more he explored this profession, the more he saw an opportunity to make a profound difference with people and families.
Duane L. Smelser

Our lives are becoming increasingly louder. Many of us walk into the house and turn on the television or start streaming music immediately. We look to natural areas like our city parks or national parks for a little noiseless down time. But the noise we try, and escape is creeping into those areas, too. If you need noise protection, including custom options, we’ve got it for you at Hearing Health. Of course, one of the best and easiest ways to take care of your health is to get a yearly hearing test.  Contact the professionals at Hearing Health for help with noise protection – and an updated hearing evaluation.


Unnatural noise

Huge national parks, with their acres and acres of vegetation and untouched areas used to be our quiet place. Even city parks, with the trees and bushes as a buffer, worked to keep out the hustle and bustle of urban life. But urban life in the forms of honking horns, jet engines and other noise are taking away the peaceful aspects of our parks, according to a Colorado State University study.

It discovered 63% of protected areas in the United States are contaminated by significant human-related noise. The areas that were looked at include national parks that span millions of acres as well as local parks. Study co-author Rachel Buxton noted  these are areas where people go to get away from the noise and stress of modern life. “Unfortunately, we have found that a good percentage of them experience levels of noise pollution,” she said. In general, national parks and wilderness preserve areas tended to be quieter. But some state and federal lands that allow logging, mining and oil and gas extraction are quite noisy.


Noise creep

In more than 60% of parks and other protected areas, artificial noise is so intrusive that a sound you should be able to hear from 100 feet away, can only be heard from 50 feet away. In 21% of the protected areas, there are spots where a sound that could normally be heard from 100 feet away can only be heard from 10 feet away!  Noise pollution doubled sound levels in 12% of all wilderness areas.

According to the study there were areas that had “shockingly high levels” that have to potential to harm your hearing health. Studies have shown that humans who spend time in the quiet of a national park or wilderness area have a generally improved mood in addition to increased memory retention.
The excess noise is more damaging than just irritating humans. For plants and animals, the noise can disrupt whole colonies. Some plants need silence for seed dispersal – revving car engines, high traffic  and the roar of machinery scares away rodents that do that job.


Traffic noise is an issue

The biggest noise culprits are vehicles such as cars, Recreational vehicles and trucks, but aircraft noise also plays a part as does heavy machinery. Researchers measured sound levels at nearly 5,000 different sites in various nature areas. They then pooled the data as well as other information such as elevation and distance from roads to create a formula that predicts both human and natural sound levels. This formula was then applied to protected areas from neighborhood parks to huge wildlife preserves to determine the extent of noise pollution. They created a “noise map” so officials could keep track of sound issues and try to control it.

Researchers said noise pollution could be categorized as “pervasive.” Even in 12% of the wildlife areas where motorized traffic was banned, there was significant noise creep. In most of  the “natural” areas, there was enough noise infiltration to irritate visitors as well as affect “bird song predators’ ability to find prey, and the prey’s ability to hear predators.” The sound intrusion was found to be 10 decibels above background sound which is considered significant noise.


Some good news

Researchers did find there were intact and unspoiled areas where noise pollution had not yet set in. It is their hope that the study acts as a warning that unspoiled areas need to be protected and maintained as natural soundscapes.

Protected areas are using noise reducing strategies such as operating shuttles to reduce incoming traffic and concentrating heavy traffic as well as airplane traffic along “noise corridors” to isolate sound in the interior of an area.


Visit Us at Hearing Health

We need to be aware of noise pollution both urban and otherwise, that might harm our hearing. A regular hearing test is the best way to keep tabs on your hearing health. Contact Hearing Health and schedule a test today.

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