• Carol Jin

Noise Pollution - The Volume Inside Of This Atmosphere Is Astronomical


While staying at home this past year, I’ve scrolled through plenty of humorous videos and comical catchphrases on social media. One of the first humorous lines that I can instantly recite comes from a viral impression of a teacher scolding his/her loud students during a field trip bus ride:

“The volume inside of this bus is ASTRONOMICAL.”

While this phrase remains iconic and witty, real noise pollution is much less of a knee slapper: it’s an environmental hazard. Today’s article will introduce the environmental harm of noise pollution as well as how we can keep our noise at a minimum!

How Noise Pollution Harms The Environment

Noise pollution is any unwanted or disturbing sound that diminishes one’s quality of life [1]. The two main factors that determine whether a noise is polluting or not are:

  1. How loud the sound is (measured in units called decibels)

  2. How long you are exposed to the sound

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that hearing sound levels quieter than 70 decibels is safe for all living organisms, regardless of how long they have been exposed to the noise. However, being exposed to 85 dB or higher for over 8 hours per day builds up internal stress and can lead to elevated blood pressure, hearing loss (120-140 dB), sleep disturbances, and psychological irritation [2]. To put a face to these numbers, here is a helpful chart of some common sounds and their loudness in decibels:

Courtesy of Kintronics

While noise pollution is detrimental to human health, it can also harm the environment in the following ways [3]:

  • Less Successful Animal Reproduction: Male animals that use mating calls, including some birds and frogs, tend to be more successful in finding a female mate when their calls are lower-pitched. However, in order to be heard over the everyday sounds of urbanized areas, the males’ calls must become higher-pitched, which is “undesirable” to female counterparts. Thus, noise pollution makes it more difficult for us to preserve the biodiversity of future generations.

  • Bats’ Declining Success With Food Hunting: Bats are environmentally useful because they maintain cave ecosystems, control insect populations, pollinate plants, and disperse plant seeds to promote forest growth in larger areas. Because they are blind, bats rely on echolocation (emitting a sonar sound and then generating an image from the sound waves that bounce back) in order to travel and identify food, but noise pollution can cover up the sound of prey that bats seek.

Bat Echolocation, courtesy of NRG Systems

  • Whales Beached More Often: Whales also rely heavily on echolocation. Sources of noise pollution in the ocean are chugging ships/boats, underwater oil drillers, and military sonar devices, which can all throw off whales’ trajectories. As a result, whales are more prone to stranding themselves on beaches in areas where artificial sonar sound is present. Many times, these beachings are fatally dehydrating for the whales.

Beached whale, courtesy of NewsThump

What Can We Do To Reduce Noise Pollution?

Assuming that you’re a “regular” person such as myself, there isn’t much we can do to reduce the environment-polluting noise coming from highway traffic and oceanside oil drillers—that is unfortunately out of our control. However, to protect your own health you can [4]:

  • Wear earplugs/sound-canceling headphones when you’re in a loud environment.

  • Turn down the volume on your phone or other sound-emitting devices to cut out unnecessary decibels.

  • Minimize noise in your own home by closing windows, shutting doors, and improving insulation.

  • Plant trees: Believe it or not, trees are actually effective sound absorbers! This is because sound travels in the form of waves, and trees will physically disperse those vibrations to decrease the loudness of a sound. You can use almost anything to disperse sounds, but trees are an ideal option because they are tall, thick, and environmentally friendly!

Thank you for reading! With our help, the world can make a U-Turn for the better.

Note: Bracketed numbers next to certain texts (e.g. [1], [2], etc.) indicate that the aforementioned information in the article is derived from the corresponding source in the References below.


[1] Clean Air Act Title IV - Noise Pollution. (2020, December 21).

[2] Noise Pollution: Environmental Pollution Centers.

[3] Parris, D. K., & McCauley, R. (Eds.). (2019, September 19). Noise pollution and the environment. Curious. pollution-and-environment

[4] Rinkesh. (2020, June 6). 25+ Easy and Practical Ways to Reduce Noise Pollution at Home or Offices. Conserve Energy Future.


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