Eco-Healthy Child Care® Fact Sheets:

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is unpleasant noise created by people or machines that can be annoying, distracting, intrusive, and/or physically painful. As recognized by The World Health Organization (WHO), the harmful health effects of noise pollution can pose a variety of threats to a child’s learning and behavior as well as physical and psychological health.

Health Concerns and Sources of Noise Pollution

Noise pollution can come from outdoor sources, such as: road traffic, jet planes, garbage trucks, construction equipment, manufacturing processes, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and indoor sources, including: loud music or television, heating and air conditioning units, and metal chairs scraping on floors.

The adverse effects of noise pollution including:

  • Hearing loss
  • Accumulation of stress
  • High blood pressure
  • Interference with speech
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbance
  • General reduction in general quality of life


Noise Pollution and the Developing Child

A child wearing headphones.

  • Children develop better concentration skills in a quiet environment.
  • Children who are exposed to noise pollution while learning are more likely to experience reading delays.
  • Children who suffer from noise pollution learn to tune out not only loud and unpleasant noises, but also the teacher’s voice, which can harm their reading and language skills.
  • Children have more difficulty with the acquisition of speech, understanding spoken language and distinguishing the sounds of speech when learning in a noisy environment.
  • Children who spend time in noisier areas have higher resting blood pressure and higher stress levels.
  • Children who are exposed to noise pollution can exhibit tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sound in the ear) a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss.
  • Noise pollution can have a negative impact on long-term memory.


Noise Pollution is an Environmental Justice Issue

A city street.

Science shows us that noise levels are consistently higher in predominantly Asian, Black and Latinx neighborhoods. High levels of noise exposure also exists in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty.

Noise pollution is yet another example of how communities of color and low-income people bear a disproportionate burden of pollution.


Tips For Reducing Noise Pollution

Taking Charge of Noise Pollution

A window with plants and a teapot on the sill.

  • Close windows and doors to shut out noise pollution from lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and garbage trucks. Open screened windows when the noises cease for good ventilation.
  • Install noise absorbent materials on ceilings and walls.
  • Only play music intentionally as part of the curriculum. Never play music or a radio that is for background/white noise. Never use white noise machines. Allow children to nap in quiet – do not play music while children are sleeping.
  • Personal music players should be played at low levels. If you can hear the child’s music, that might mean it’s too loud.
  • Fight the noise. Work with neighbors, your city and/or licensing agency to request that noisy activities are adjusted to meet the needs of your program (i.e., loud construction should not be done while children are sleeping).
  • Place noisy activities next to each other and away from “quiet areas” reserved for learning activities requiring concentration.

Young girl wearing headphones in class.

  • Limit the amount of time spent doing noisy activities.
  • Provide headphones for listening centers and monitor volume.
  • Encourage parents/caregivers to have their child’s hearing tested if they routinely participate in noisy activities, such as playing an instrument or attending concerts or sports events.


Signs that a Child Has Hearing Damage

  • Asks people to repeat themselves.
  • Regularly hears buzzing or ringing sounds.
  • Speaks loudly, yells, or raises their voice to speak to someone standing nearby. Does not react to unexpected loud noises.