Tag Archive: well-being

How human-made noise affects animals

Photo credit: Matthis Volquardsen from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

As I have written in previous posts, human-made noises have not only adversely affected the health and well being of people, but these noises also affect the well being of many species with whom we share this planet. Human-made noise forces the increased volume of urban bird calls, resulting in stress to some species, and deep-sea mining interests may have disrupted the lives of sea creatures for many years to come.

In her article for Psychology Today, Mary Bates informs us that noise pollution may hamper the communication of animals, “from insects to frogs to birds,” and this may have “potential consequences for mate attraction, territory defense and parent-offspring communication.” In support, she cites a new paper that reported the findings of a large number of studies that examined the impact of “anthropogenic noise,” or noise pollution, on animal communication. These studies found that animals had to make adjustments as a result of noise intrusions, and such adjustments could intrude on their existence. For example, when females had to call louder to attract males, these louder calls also attracted more predators, endangering the very lives of these animals.

The authors of the paper, Hansjoerg Kunc, Queen’s University Belfast, and his colleague Rouven Schmidt, conclude that it is essential for us to track noise pollution because the knowledge gained in such tracking will “ultimately determine the health of both ecosystems and organisms, including humans.” By including humans in this warning, they are cautioning us to protect our natural soundscapes not only to protect other species but ourselves as well.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Always read the fine print when a study comes out trivializing noise complaints

Daniel Fink, MD, and Jamie L. Banks, PhD, MSc, have written an intriguing article about NextGen, The Mercatus Center (funded by the arch conservative Koch brothers), and aircraft noise. In “Airplane Noise is a Health Hazard,” Fink and Banks write that the Mercatus Center study “labels those who complain about airport noise as NIMBYs…conveniently ignor[ing] a large body of medical research showing that airplane noise increases the risk of morbidity and mortality, [and] trivializ[ing] the seriousness of a problem affecting the health and well-being of millions of Americans.”  It’s a very thoughtful and well-cited piece that is worth a careful read.

Shortly after Fink and Banks’ article was published, an article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times about the soaring costs in test program to insulate historic homes near O’Hare ($101,000 per home, not an insignificant amount). Interestingly, the Mercatus Center study somehow ignored the damage to property value borne by homeowners living under NextGen flight paths while it was categorizing people suffering from continuous aircraft noise as a “handful” of NIMBYists .

The distracting effects of noise on animals:

What prairie dogs tell us about the effects of noise pollution.  The short answer:

With increasing levels of man-made noise in the environment, animals are having to contend more and more with external stimuli which can draw their attention away from these key tasks. And the consequences of failing to focus on lurking dangers can be deadly.

And for those who wonder why we should worry about the effects of noise pollution on prarie dogs, there is this:

At the end of the day, every species has a finite attention span and, depending upon the source of disturbance and the task at hand, can get distracted. In an increasingly noisy world, this will no doubt have implications for other animals as well as humans.

Noise pollution effects health and well-being.  A discussion about controlling the noise around us is long past due.