Lesson Plan: ‘Noise Could Take Years Off Your Life. Here’s Why.’

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Lesson Plan: ‘Noise Could Take Years Off Your Life. Here’s Why.’

Featured article: “Noise Could Take Years Off Your Life. Here’s Why.

The sound of stomping feet from upstairs neighbors during your family dinner.
A dog barking from the street while you do your homework.
A blaring ambulance that rouses you from a deep sleep.

We’ve all been annoyed — even infuriated — by the noises around us. But did you know that chronic noise exposure is not just a nuisance? According to scientists, it’s a health risk.

Mounting research suggests that as average noise levels climb, so do the risks of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

In this lesson, you will learn about the effects of chronic noise and what we can do about it. In the Going Further activities, you will document noise levels in your own community and find a creative way to inform and educate others about the issue.

Would you say your neighborhood is noisy or quiet?

Before reading the featured article, conduct an experiment to help you find out.

First, go to a comfortable spot outside, and set a timer for five minutes. Then, close your eyes and just listen — whether it’s loud or quiet, cacophonous or melodious.

Afterward, write down all the sounds that you heard, such as screeches and honks from cars, the rumble of passing buses or planes, clangs and thuds from a nearby construction site, shouts and laughter from children playing, wind rustling through the trees or birds singing.

Then, reflect on your simple experiment: What did you notice? Were you surprised by any of the sounds you heard, or didn’t hear? What questions do you have about the noises all around you?

Would you say the location of your experiment was noisy or quiet? On the whole, do you think that the noise level where you live is an issue? If so, how does it affect you?

Read the featured article, then answer the following questions:

1. What does a growing amount of research show about the effects of chronic noise, according to the article?

2. How can the “relentless din of daily life” — not just blaringly loud sounds like cars, trucks and planes — have lasting effects throughout the body? Were any of the sounds you heard during the warm-up activity discussed in the article and considered possibly hazardous?

3. Describe the physiological effect of noise on the body, including the arteries, the brain and the sympathetic nervous system.

4. The article includes a graph showing different decibel levels heard in common sounds and environments. What information in this graph stood out? What surprised or concerned you most?

5. The article includes many figures, such as the decibel levels linked to health risks and the number of Americans at increased risk for hypertension, stroke and heart attacks because of chronic noise exposure. Which statistic was most notable, and why?

6. Who is at the highest risk for excessive noise exposure, according to the article? What role do class, race and age play?

7. What solutions does the article offer to help solve the problem of noise pollution? Why hasn’t the Noise Control Act of 1972 helped to curb the dangers of noise levels in daily life? How do you think you can better protect yourself from the effects of chronic noise?

Option 1: Learn more about the noise exposure where you live, work or gather.

In the warm-up activity, we asked you to conduct a very unscientific experiment to notice the sounds in your community. Now try your hand at some investigative reporting, and determine whether you are being exposed to too much noise in your neighborhood.

In “Are You Exposed to Too Much Noise? Here’s How to Check,” Emily Baumgaertner writes about how you can assess noise levels without buying fancy equipment or being a sound expert. One way is to download the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app for iOS, designed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and take your own sound measurements. Another is to search for your ZIP code using an online noise map developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ms. Baumgaertner also provides tips on how to record, gather and interpret the data.

After your research, reflect on the results by discussing them with a partner or writing in a journal: What is your reaction to the data? What are the primary sources of noise in your community? How does noise exposure where you live compare to the levels that are discussed in the article? What is one thing you think would help lower noise levels where you live?

You can share your findings with your class and pool the data to create a map of the noise levels in your neighborhood. Together you can discuss what the map reveals: What story does it tell about noise exposure in your community? Where are the noise hot spots and sound oases? What questions does your data raise?

Additionally, if you would like to help researchers improve their noise models, you can add your measurements to the Noise Across America study portal operated by the University of Washington.

Option 2: Inform and educate others.

Using the information from the article or further research, create something that can be used to educate others about the noise levels in your community or the dangers of chronic noise exposure in general, and to inspire action. You can use words, images, graphs, comparisons or anything else that you think would be effective. Here are some options:


Find more lesson plans and teaching ideas here.