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Surprising Science

Why Your Brain Needs Peace and Quiet

Urban noise pollution is associated with increased risk factors for fatal diseases, says the World Health Organization. But sound can also be employed to make cities better places. 

What’s the Latest Development?

If you can’t seem to get away from urban noise, you’re certainly not alone. In the last few decades, noise pollution has come to plague many areas once left entirely to nature. That fact has serous health consequences, says the World Health Organization. The global body has said that: “[E]nvironmental noise was responsible for thousands of cases of heart attacks and cases of tinnitus in European Union member states per year. It also backed the findings of other previous studies showing high noise levels can undermine reading, memory, language and attention in children with life-long knock on effects on educational attainment.”

What’s the Big Idea?

In an attempt to counter those negative health effects, governments often offer incentives to companies who purchase quieter equipment. But noise can also be used in positive ways: “Canadian transport managers were the first to combat vandalism and other anti-social behaviour by playing classical music at remote stations in order to deter teenage gangs.” The results of such ‘soundscape’ policies have been mixed, but what is clear is that sound plays an essential part in our emotional lives. Researchers and casual observers alike know that aggressive men play their music loudly and that music enhances the sexual experience. 

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