Country File magazine reports on recent research by Manchester Metropolitan University with Manchester Airport that found birds living near airports “are exposed to extreme noise levels from jet engines” which interferes with communication during breeding season. Interestingly, not only is communication affected, but the researchers found that common chiffchaffs living near loud aircraft were five times more likely to attack a speaker playing bird song than chiffchaffs who lived further away from airports. That is, the noise made the birds more aggressive.
Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, reports that some birds are so stressed by noise pollution that “it looks like they have PTSD.” Kaplan writes that scientists researching birds living near noisy natural gas treatment facilities in New Mexico discovered from sampling the birds’ blood that they had “the same physiological symptoms as a human suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Said Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “[n]oise is causing birds to be in a situation where they’re chronically stressed . . . and that has really huge health consequences for birds and their offspring.”
And humans? The researchers took their findings to Christopher Lowry, a stress physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not surprised by the results–“it’s what you would expect in a creature exposed to prolonged, persistent strain.” So does the study’s findings have implications about the effect of noise on human health? Kaplan writes:
To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.
Ultimately, being under an aural assault is bad for any living thing’s health and well-being. Says Lowry, “[t]here’s evidence that being able to have a full auditory experience is essential for optimal health in both species.”
Trees. Dean Fosdick, Associated Press, writes that “landscape designers in cities are creating quieter living spaces by using trees to mute loud noises like sirens and air brakes.” The practice is called “‘soundscaping,’ and it aims to restore peaceful, natural sounds like wind whispering through leaves, birds chirping or rain dripping from branches.” Click the link to learn more.
Not sure if we would agree with his assessment of why noise is so pervasive, but this bit is dead on:
And noise isn’t simply about volume: it’s about persistence. It’s about invasiveness. Think of people who chatter away on Smart phones even as they’re out for a quiet walk along the beach or in the woods. How can you hear the waves or the birds if you’re screaming into a phone? Bits and pieces of conversations I’ve overheard are not about emergencies or even pressing matters; it’s more like, “Guess where I am? I’m at the beach/concert/top of the mountain!” Followed by selfies and postings and more calls or texts.
With all these forms of noise, it’s difficult to be in the moment. It’s even difficult to find a moment. Also, even in quiet times, people feel pressured to fill the silence with, well, something. So unaccustomed to quiet are they that they reach for their Smart phones (perhaps to play a noisy video game), or they turn on the TV, or they chatter away even when they have nothing to say. Must avoid “uncomfortable” silences, so we’ve been told.