Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Desensitized to High Levels of Urban Noise

Background Noise Levels of the City & Nature

Spending a day hiking in nature makes me feel much better.  This 'feeling better' can be quantified too. For me, spending time out in the wilds resets my nervous system, lowers my blood pressure, dissipates stress and just makes me feel all around better.

Back in the city however we are continually exposed to a much heavier, constant background noise loading than we would be if we lived way out in the country.  There is a huge difference between the sounds in the urban core and the sounds in the wildlife refuge far away from roads, highways, buildings, factories and urban infrastructure.  Because we are desensitized to urban noise levels we don't realize how much this excess urban noise may be affecting our bodies. 

How does the constant elevated noise level from the city impact our health?  Irreversible hearing loss is now one of the most prevalent health issues affecting humans, as are hypertension and stress.  Loud urban noises include both unwanted noises such as traffic and wanted noises that include stereo speakers, concerts and loud car speakers.  All noises have a direct impact on our well being.

Spending a weekend day out in a state or regional park away from the city can provide a number of health benefits.  Time outdoors make us aware of just how noisy the urban core actually is.  From a health perspective it is important to recognize the true levels of ambient city noise we are exposed to daily.  Recognizing noises we previously ignored leads to an understanding of how spending time outside the city in nature can provide a number of important positive effects on our bodily systems.

The first 15 seconds of this audio was recorded just outside the Tallahassee city limit, in a residential neighborhood at midnight. The next 15 seconds were taken in the SMNWR at midnight, both recordings set with same gain (input volume) levels.  The differences in city noise and nature noise can be obvious when the ambient noise levels of both are compared side by side.  

When is the last time you have spent a number of hours outdoors, away from the city, hiking, tubing, swimming or camping?  Next time you go, pay attention to the differences between the noises from home and the much lower levels of background noise in the forests.  Once we are able to distinguish between urban and nature noise levels the contrast is obviously evident.

Working with nature recordings has heightened my desire to visit and re-visit the wilds.  As soon as I leave the city and draw near to the coastal wetlands preserves I feel a sense of relaxation come over me.  Immersed in birds' and frogs' melodious calls and the buffered quiet of forest green, my body responds with a noticeable increase in available energy tempered with deep relaxation. 

I am renewed.  Yet too soon the sun sets low and it is time to return to the noisy city.

Listen to the differences here.