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

So many people, have become more aware of the intrusive sounds around them. Since we have been staying home more during the pandemic, and with many working from home, we have become more cognizant of the sounds intruding upon us, e.g. young children running around in the apartment above or the noisy repair job going on next door. Thus, it should not be surprising that Amber Leventry is so bothered by the sounds of her young children that even their “happy sounds make me angry if they are too loud or sudden.”

Like Leventry, as I have learned from the many noise inquiry phone calls I receive, more people are investigating the causes of noise pollution and the reactions of people to intrusive noises. One of the causes, as Leventry pointed out, is the unpredictability of these sound intrusions makes them disturbing. The unpredictability and uncontrollable nature of unexpected sounds have long been identified as stressful. Now with the pandemic, disturbing noises can be even more stressful. Leventry notes that noise pollution has “sapped my creativity, patience and desire to be around most people.”

I would hope that Leventry and others will do more research on the effects of noise on people, as they will learn that noise has been linked to adverse mental and health effects. Noise is hazardous to health! While we can hope that some of the sounds intruding in our lives at home will lessen as our society puts the pandemic under greater control, there will still be sounds coming from rude neighbors, noisy road and air traffic, and construction noises that will continue to be intrusive. With respect to the sounds of children at home, these too should lessen as they grow older and understand that their sounds can be disturbing to others. Also, hopefully, they will have greater access to the outdoors and playgrounds when things are “more normal.”

After reading this article, I would like to invite Leventry and others who are now more cognizant of the harmful effects of noise to join the advocates who have been working toward lessening the noises in our environment.