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Is noise the cause of your mental health issue?

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

We are living in an environment that is not only polluted by EMF but also by noise. Noise for some people who are sensitive to it can cause various health issues for the person from restlessness to anxiety. So is noise bothering you?

Hearing Loss

Most parents are aware and would bring their child to see an ophthalmologist when there is a problem with the child's eyes because the child will be squinting when asked to look at something. But hearing loss behaviour is more subtle and not as easily detected because it is often gradual and not a complete loss.

Hearing loss can result from a single loud sound (like firecrackers) near your ear. Or, more often, hearing loss can result over time from damage caused by repeated exposures to loud sounds. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for hearing loss to occur. The longer the exposure, the greater the risk for hearing loss (especially when hearing protection is not used or there is not enough time for the ears to rest between exposures).

Everyday activities, events and some tools can trigger hearing loss. Everyday activities include listening to music at high volume using headphones, fitness classes that play loud music, and even some noisy children's toys.

How are sounds measured?

Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A whisper is about 30 dB, normal conversation is about 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dB. Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period may damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.

Impact of decibels on mental states

Everyday Noise

Average sound levels (decibels)

Typical Response (after routine or repeated exposure)

Mental State Impact

Softest sound that can be heard


No impact

Normal breathing


Sounds at this level typically are ok and do not cause damage.

Focus on breathing is calming.

Ticking watch


Sounds at this level typically are ok and do not cause damage.


Soft whisper


Sounds at this level typically are ok and do not cause damage.

Can sound annoying to those with hearing loss.

Refrigerator hum


Sounds at this level typically are ok and do not cause damage.

Can be annoying to sound sensitive people when they try to relax/sleep.

Normal conversation, air conditioner


Sounds at this level typically are ok and do not cause damage.

No impact

Washing machine and dish washer


Triggers annoyance.

City traffic (inside the car)


Triggers annoyance. Can lead to road rage.

Gas-powered lawnmowers.


Damage hearing possible after 2 hours of exposure.

Anxiety provoking.



Damage hearing possible after 50 minutes of exposure.

Triggers anxiety, emotional disturbances.

Approaching subway trains, car horn at 16 feet and sporting events such as hockey playoffs and football games.


Damage hearing possible after 15 minutes of exposure.

Triggers adrenalin and fight/flight reactions.

Personal devices played at high volume or at loud and noisy places like night clubs, rock concerts and bars.


Damage hearing possible after 5 minutes of exposure.

Triggers adrenalin and fight/flight reactions. Aggression.

Shouting or barking in the ear.


Damage hearing possible after 2 minutes of exposure.

Triggers anger/aggression.

Standing besides or near sirens.


Pain and ear injury.

Triggers and nervous and emotional crisis with prolonged exposure.



Pain and ear injury.

Triggers fight or flight reactions.

How do I measure if my environment is safe?

The effect of lower noise levels over long periods is the same as louder noise levels over a shorter period. You can use a sound level meter (SLM) to measure the noise around you. Free SLMs developed as smartphone apps are available. Some apps can predict your maximum allowable daily noise dose, like the NIOSH SLM app developed for iOS devices to help promote better hearing health and prevention efforts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend maintaining environmental noises below 70 dBA over 24 hours (75 dBA over 8 hours) to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The EPA also specified limits for speech interference and annoyance at 55 dBA for outdoors activities and 45 dBA for indoor activities.

When should I get my hearing tested?

Hearing loss affects all the senses and not just the auditory. Therefore, it is important to regularly do a hearing test alongside eye tests, medical check-ups and mental health tests. 360 Wellness Hub has a comprehensive sensory processing test, it is recommended that you contact us to find out more.

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About the Author


Dr. Lennie Soo

Founder and Clinical Director of 360 Wellness Hub.

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