Noise Pollution: How To Measure Its Effect On Your Health

Recommended Sound Levels

  • 85 dBA and last a few hours;
  • 100 dBA and last at least 14 minutes;
  • 110 dBA and last at least 2 minutes;
  • 120 dBA is the threshold of pain and hearing damage will result after a short exposure.
  • less than 30 dBA in bedrooms during the night for good quality sleep;
  • less than 35 dBA in classrooms to allow good teaching and learning conditions.

How To Measure Noise

  • The distance between the meter and the source of the sound;
  • The direction the noise source is facing, relative to the meter;
  • Whether the measurement is taken outdoors (where noise can dissipate) or indoors (where noise can reverberate).

Challenge: Measure Noise and Find Quiet

Participants with sound level meters. Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo by Tara Tiger Brown
Noise Mapping in Yoyogi Park, Shibuya, Tokyo

How To Measure Your Noise Wellness

  • inside and outside your house;
  • inside and outside your place of work;
  • during your commute.
  • Download an app or purchase a recommended sound meter device;
  • Record the sound level on the worksheet;
  • For comparison add the WHO or other recommended noise level.

How To Reduce Noise

  • Lower the volume on your phone, TV, stereo, etc.;
  • Move away from the noise;
  • Wear hearing protectors or musicians’ earplugs, which are designed to filter out loud sounds and admit quieter sounds;
  • Use the 60:60 rule when listening to music through headphones. Listen for 60 minutes at 60 dBA and then take a break (remember normal speech is 60–70 dBA);
  • Consider buying your child volume-limiting headphones that don’t go above 85 dBA;
  • When passing by or through loud areas like train stations or construction sites, don’t turn up your music or audiobook (note to self);
  • When patronizing a space such as a restaurant, use your sound level app or device and include the noise levels in your restaurant review on Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc. Proof can be effective, however, be prepared for pushback because some patrons enjoy a lively experience and that means more profit;
  • Plant greenery. Trees and shrubs act as a natural noise buffer. A properly designed buffer of trees and shrubs can reduce noise by about five to ten decibels — or about 50 percent as perceived by the human ear;
  • Join organizations that are working to preserve quiet areas and reduce noise from lawnmowers, airplanes, etc. including Quiet Parks International and Quiet Communities;
  • Join a noise activist or quiet advocate group;
  • Speak to your neighborhood/city council about enforcing limits on the time of day certain activities can be performed such as construction and leaf blowers;
  • Request low noise fireworks;
  • Employ people with expertise in soundscapes when designing buildings and infrastructure;
  • Create or visit silent sanctuaries like Calm Spaces in the Netherlands.

Sustainable Development Goals







Developing programs that intersect the environment, education, and well-being. | Founder @lamakerspace @kithub | 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 🇯🇵

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Tara Tiger Brown

Tara Tiger Brown

Developing programs that intersect the environment, education, and well-being. | Founder @lamakerspace @kithub | 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 🇯🇵

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