What is meant by ‘Ambient Noise’? – Its Importance
Ambient noise is also known more commonly as background noise. It is very common all around us and refers to the noise we hear that is not unpleasant or loud, but it is there. For instance, the chatter of birds, the general buzz of traffic on the highway/street in a residential area, barking of dogs, children playing outside- all of it constitutes as ambient noise. It is an important aspect that is considered while setting standard noise levels in workplace etc.
We have ‘noise’ as a general category when we talk about all the different sorts of pollution in our environment. However, ‘ambient noise’ pollution is also another thing that is less considered as it is less noticeable. Even though the noise may be in the background, the ears of living beings- particularly humans and animals in the area have keen senses and are constantly picking up those noises without us knowing. The general standard for noise in an area is 75-85 decibels.
Impacts of Ambient Noise Pollution on Environment:
- Animal Breeding Cycles: The ambient noise due to being unnoticeable for the most part in surroundings is not given much credit over how it can negatively effect living beings. One such effect is seen in the disruption of the breeding or reproductive cycles of animals and birds. This happens to wildlife living in previously uninhabited areas that have been urbanized and continue to expand (urban sprawling). The result is delayed nesting in many bird species that may have a lower range of frequency of their songs and thus cannot hear those calls over the din of human activity and metropolitan hum. This has inevitably lead to the reduced birth rates in many bird species particularly in North America. It has also sped up the extinction crises being faced by many animals due to rapid urbanization and land clearing. For more information read, Threats to Natural Ecosystems- Causes, Effects, Management
- Chronic Stress in Animals: Ambient noise can also effect animals in their behavior, mating and migration patterns. It has been observed in monkeys, baboons etc. This is especially a valid concern since many overlook ambient noise as a cause for concern. Just because it is not so noticeable in the environment doesn’t mean it has no negative impacts. This can be proven by studies conducted on animals across various regions that show that the general traffic, airplane take off/landing etc. can in fact cause prolonged stress in animals that can shorten their lifespans drastically.
- Food Scarcity for Bird Species: Mostly birds rely on sound waves to detect their preys and some mammals like bats too. Bats rely almost entirely on sound waves as they are blind however, due to the increased encroaching of humans in areas previously occupied by wildlife, these birds and mammals face difficulty in obtaining food. These ambient noises also muffle sounds necessary for survival, food acquisition as well as cues that aid these creatures to avoid their competitors in food. Read, Urbanization- Effects, Causes and Solutions
Impacts of Ambient Noise on Human Health:
- Long term exposure to noise in our daily life can cause unintended consequences like disturbed sleeping patterns or erratic sleep cycles. This is because while sleeping, human brains are still receptive to the constant buzz of sound around us and thus these sounds negatively effect our health. This includes cardiovascular stress, metabolic disturbances and in some cases even hormonal imbalances.
- Another common problem associated with noise pollution in general is Tinnitus. However, the role of ambient noise is more important in causing tinnitus than general noise pollution coming from different sources. This is because while other noise sources can be diminished or reduced it is generally hard to control ambient noise. Thus our mind being receptive to these sounds picks them up and the constant ringing sound leads to tinnitus. This further leads to psychological disorders, discomfort, irritability, reduced efficiency and concentration.
- It also interferes and upset the hormonal balance in the human body. Such as increasing or decreasing the secretion of hormones like serotonin, adrenaline and cortisol. This can lead to mood swings, and other psychological disorders.
The general difference between noise and ambient noise is of no consequence or matter to majority of humans. However, it is as important to consider as noise pollution since it effects living creatures beyond what effects humans. The increased industrialization, mechanized lives, urban sprawl and coupled with overpopulation has lead to not only encroaching on the wild areas but also disrupting their natural life cycles and food hunting patterns. Ambient noise is a widespread phenomenon since it is the noise spilling out of cafes, restaurant establishments, shopping complexes and the like. Aside from normal human activities generating noise, the ambient noise is usually a result of human enjoyment such as music, loudspeakers, crowded areas etc.
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