Sound is a strong physical force. Not only can the physical effects of toxic sound be measured on a human being, so can the psychological, emotional and mental effects.
Not all sound is good for you. Sound can also be as powerful an emotional and physical irritant as it is a healer.
Let’s take a look at a couple of toxic sound sources:
- Too loud
- Too irritating
1. Too Loud
Most people know that very loud sounds, especially when they are sustained, can damage your hearing. We don’t always pay attention to this because we can’t feel or tell when our hearing has been damaged. And because we can’t feel it, we don’t always believe that damage is possible. Or, that it is actually happening.
Sound is a form of energy. The energy in the sound wave, the intensity of the sound, or loudness, is measured in decibels, often abbreviated as dB.
The relationship between some common sounds and the intensity measured in dB, is described in the following Decibel Scale Chart.
The Decibel (dB) Scale
|threshold of hearing|
|whisper at 1 metre|
By definition, zero dB is the threshold of human hearing. Intensity of the sound is doubled with each 3 dB increase. I was surprised when I found this out. Knowing how the scale works puts the volume of these sounds into proper perspective.
For example, normal conversation is usually measured at 60 dB, 63 dB represents a conversation that is twice as loud, 66 dB is twice as loud again, and so on. A subway train is typically measured at 90 dB while a jet engine can approach 130 dB.
Most people feel pain with sound levels between 110 and 130 dB.
“Hearing loss is cumulative, so regular attendance at live concerts and nightclubs puts people at increasing risk, especially if they also spend a lot of time listening to personal stereos. Although workers are required by law to be offered ear protection if they are subject to noise above 85 decibels, there are no statutory limits for the protection of audiences. At concerts, groups may play music amplified to above 120 decibels, which is 1,000 per cent louder than 85 decibels.”
What effect does exposure to noise have on your health?
“Noises can be especially harmful to children. Scientific research indicates that noisy homes slow down cognitive and language development in young children. In addition, children living and attending schools near noisy highways, railroads, and airports have lower reading scores, and some children living or attending a school near a major airport have experienced elevated blood pressure.”
Part of auditory wellness, which includes the health of your hearing, is to know what can be damaging to your hearing and what your limits are. Damage is insidious because you can’t always feel or tell when your hearing is being harmed.
2. Too Irritating
Sound is food for your nervous system. And just like food, junk sound, like traffic noise, stimulates your nervous system to release hormones that increase the stress response in your body.
Here are just a few of the consequences from this hormone response over time:
- blood pressure goes up,
- digestion slows or stops,
- your brain is put on high alert, making it harder to sleep,
- muscles tense, often leading to a sore back, jaw or shoulders over time,
- depressed immune system.
Your nervous system – and you – need quiet time to allow your nervous system to come into harmony following times when you have been highly active or exposed to a lot of loud noise.
Another cause of this heightened nervous system response is the inner noise. That incessantly chattering mind that is usually tinged with negatively charged thoughts or worries.
Your nervous system responds in the same way to noisy thoughts as it does to the noisy outer world.
It literally cannot tell the difference!!
It is so easy to place noise into the background, believing that it will have no effect.
It can have a powerful effect. And one that can be detrimental to your hearing and/or your health.
Be mindful of the sound around you and set aside some quiet time each day. Your body and your heart will thank you.
Ready to Learn More?
To discover more about how sound can support your health and well-being, consider attending our Fundamentals of Healing with Sound and Music program. Our next program is offerred Sept 16 to 18, 2022. If you are a practitioner, you may qualify for funding of 2/3 of your tuition and travel costs.
Or if you want to just ‘stick your toe in the water’, test out our Sound Wellness Foundation program. It is a 3½ hour on-line program to introduce you to the power of sound.