This fact sheet has information on the health effects of noise, how to protect your hearing from loud noises, and what you can do about noise in your community.
- Noise, or unwanted sound, is the number one public complaint in New York City. In 2006 there were 101,699 noise complaints made to 311, a 26% increase from 2005.
- For most exposures to noise in community settings, hearing protection is not needed. When attending loud events or listening to music, wearing hearing protection or turning down the volume will help protect you from hearing loss.
- Complaints about noise in your community can be made by calling 311.
How can noise affect my health?
Most noise in your community is probably not loud enough to cause hearing loss, but noise in and around your home can disturb your quality of life because it can:
- Be annoying
- Disrupt sleep
- Interfere with conversations
Which noise sources in the community can disturb quality of life?
- Music concerts and clubs
- Car and home stereos
- Personal music players
- Hobbies, such as: target shooting, working with power tools, motorcycles, etc.
- Transportation: subways, traffic, garbage trucks
Can noise in the workplace affect my hearing?
Noise in the workplace can cause hearing loss. Noisy jobs may be found in: construction, factories, power plants and subways. Information on noise in the workplace, signs of hearing loss, and ways to control your exposure to noise at work can be found at: Noise in the Workplace
How is noise measured?
- Noise is measured in two ways: loudness and frequency. Frequency is also called pitch.
- Noise loudness is measured in Decibels (dBA). When the decibels go up a little, the loudness goes up a lot. A sound that is 90 decibels is twice as loud as a sound that is 80 decibels.
- Noise frequency, or pitch, is measured in Hertz (Hz). Most of the sounds you hear are between 2 and 16,000 Hz. Human speech is between 500 and 2000 Hz.
- Noises that are louder or have a higher pitch are more harmful to your hearing than quieter and lower pitched sounds.
- Noise that is sporadic or pulsating may be more annoying for some people.
How can I reduce my family's exposure to noise?
- Talk to neighbors or businesses about lowering noise levels. If noise persists, call 311
- Talk to your children about the hazards of noise. Tell them to limit visits to loud video arcades and concerts, and keep volumes lower on portable music players.
- Wear earplugs or earmuffs in noisy places
- Use hearing protection when using power tools, mowing the lawn, attending loud concerts and other loud exposures.
- Use special musician earplugs to reduce sound volume without distorting music or other
Listening to loud music can cause hearing loss.
If you listen to loud music often, you could lose your hearing. Use these tips to protect yourself while you listen to your favorite music:
- Set the volume on your stereo or music player to a comfortable level in a quiet room.
- Do not turn up the volume when you are in a noisy setting to "block out" the noise. Keep the volume low—your ears will adjust to the sound.
- Limit the amount of time you use a personal stereo system or portable music player.
- Buy stereos and music players with an "Automatic Volume Limiter"
How can a building owner reduce noise inside?
- Buy quieter air conditioners and appliances for your home and keep them in good repair.
- Use heavy curtains on the windows and place rugs on
- Install sound-proof windows
- Caulk and seal all air leaks to reduce the noise coming in from the outside.
How can I make a complaint about noise in my community?
If possible, try to resolve the noise problem by talking with the people making the noise.
If that does not work, call 311.
Last Updated: July 10, 2012