The Effect of Noise

As suggested previously, noise can have both psychological and physiological effects on people. Psychologically adverse noise mainly affects a worker's performance and state of well-being. Direct exposure to excessive noise may cause fatigue, distraction, annoyance, interference with communication, reduction in the memory function, and disturbance of rest and relaxation. Some or all of these effects may be involved in decreased performance in the workplace.

The main physiological effect of adverse noise is noise-induced hearing loss, which is irreversible damage to one or more parts of the hearing organs. However, high sound levels also can induce responses in other parts of the body, such as reduced blood circulation, change on the skin's resistance to electric current and a corresponding activation of the nervous system, increased muscle tension, changes in the breathing pattern, and disturbance of sleep. These non-hearing-related noise responses are considered reversible and soon disappear when the noise source is removed.

Not all adverse noise is encountered in the workplace. We are surrounded by such sound generators such as outdoor and indoor equipment and appliances (lawn mowers, chain saws, sink disposals, blenders, clothes washers, and the like) and recreation and hobby equipment (gas-powered model planes and cars, unmuffled racing car and boat engines, firearms and explosive devices, high power stereo amplifiers and speaker systems, trail motorcycles, snowmobiles, and pleasure aircraft, among other things). Many of these items generate unusually intense sounds, but when we are preoccupied with the utility and the joy of using them, we are seldom aware of the noise they create or their potential for damaging our hearing.

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