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Does Annoyance Noise actually Hurt?

We tend to classify noise in two main categories - Annoyance noise, and dangerous decibels. 

Dangerous levels of sound is much more straightforward to measure and control. If your workplace environment is subjecting you to more than 85dB over 8 hours (or more than 100dB over 15 minutes) without effective hearing controls in place, you can file an anonymous complaint with WorkSafe to investigate the matter and protect your hearing and health. 

Annoyance noise, however, tends to be more subjective. For example, some people love classical music, some prefer heavy metal, while others can't stand techno. It's the same with noises. While you might not be bothered by the hum from heat pumps, you might be annoyed by chewing sounds, the sound of your coworker yakking loudly on their phone, or the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Annoyance noise might not cause permanent hearing loss, but they can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health. You risk exhaustion, anxiety, headaches, poor performance, social isolation, depression, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain from exposure to annoyance noise.

So what can you do about it? We've given a couple of annoyance noise examples below, along with what you can do to save your ears (and health) from the pain.

We can control noise in 3 simple ways: The source, the path, and the receiver. We've written a whole guide on that, and the same principles are applied here.

Heat Pumps are the top complaint of annoyance noise in New Zealand. If you own the offending heat pump (or are about to buy one), you can control the source by choosing to purchase the quietest heat pump possible that suits your budget. Or you could control the path in which noise travels from the heat pump to you, by building an enclosure around the heat pump to absorb the sound that is being emitted. You can also think about where you're going to install your heat pump. Remember, double the distance halves the sound, so if you scout out a location that is further away from both you and your neighbours, you can significantly reduce the noise cost effectively. But if you don't own the heat pump and can't control the sounds, you can get some high fidelity acoustic-filtered earplugs. A 10dB or 15dB filter effectively cuts down on that constant annoying hum, while letting you hear the sounds that you want. White Cat Living Filters are also great for cutting down motorboat and motorcycle sounds while allowing you to maintain full focus on warning signals and conversation.

Washing machines can vibrate quite loudly especially during the spin cycle, and be a huge nuisance if you have a neighbour living below you. A very simple and effective way to cut down on that is to place a thick rubber mat below your washing machine. These cost less than $40/meter, and helps to absorbs the vibration, effectively cutting down the noise!

Blender/smoothie makers are available in quiet models. They're not cheap, but well worth the investment if you're a smoothie shop - You don't want to irritate your customers or chase them away before they step in the door! Most blenders run at 85dB, and can be even louder if you're blending ice, so it can actually cause hearing loss if you're using it frequently, over extended periods of time! If you're blending your own smoothie at home, however, you can cut down the sound by placing/wrapping it with a thick hand towel. 

Sensitivity to sound can be defined in many ways. We have misophonia, where specific sounds evoke negative feelings, thoughts and physical reactions in some people. This could be chewing or slurping, whispering or popping gum. It is different from hyperacusis, which is an increased sensitivity to a range of frequencies and volumes, and can be debilitating in many social situations. A common way for people to manage these situations is to remove themselves from their environment, which can be very isolating, and can lead to phonophobia. One of the ways to deal with this is, again, to use high fidelity acoustic-filtered earplugs. A 10dB or 15dB filter, recommended by your audiologist, helps to bring the volume down to a more acceptable level, while still letting you stay connected to your environment. If you are facing issues with sensitivity to sound, talk to us. We can direct you to audiologists who specialise in these areas, or fit you with appropriate filters if you have previously seen an audiologist. 

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