Categories: Marine wildlife

Noise can harm animals as well as humans


Noise is not just annoying, it can harm animals as well as humans. Excessive and chronic noise should be treated as a health hazard because there is growing evidence that such levels pose a significant risk to one’s physical and mental health and that of our companion animals. We must also bring into the equation farm animals and wild animals.

Whales like it quiet too. Photo: Humpback whale off in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

A study highlights how noise can harm animals. About 20 years ago a team of researchers monitored the stress level of whales living off the north-east coast of North America, specifically in the Bay of Fundy. They did this by analysing the concentrations of stress-related hormones in their excrement.

They found that there was a sudden, dramatic decrease in stress levels in the autumn of 2001. The levels reverted to normal a few weeks later. They realised that stress levels had decreased because there had been a suspension of air traffic and ocean shipping after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This resulted in the waters of the north Atlantic becoming much quieter which allowed the whales to communicate more easily without having to compete against the background noise of tankers and aircraft.

I don’t need to go into detail about how noise can affect humans but noise creates stress.

“The health implications of noise are vast – noise creates stress. If you don’t have the control to turn it off, then you become even more annoyed and more stressed.”

Lisa Lavia, MD of the Noise Abatement Society (NAS).

According to the World Health Organisation the impacts of noise include ischemic heart disease, diabetes, obesity, tinnitus, sleep disturbance, adverse birth outcomes and cognitive impairment in children.


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