SOURCE By Kevin Hartnett GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
Noise is an inconvenience of city living. Could it also hurt your health? Erica Walker, a doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, set out to help answer that question.
For a year, she measured noise levels in 400 locations in Boston and interviewed residents about their perceptions of the sounds around them. Her results — complete with neighborhood “noise report cards” — will be released on her website, noiseandthecity.org, on Monday. The project is one of the first large-scale sonic mappings of a city in the United States, where the relationship between sound and health has received less attention than in Europe. Walker hopes it will push policymakers and researchers to begin taking noise seriously as a public health issue.
“People are concerned about noise, but they feel it’s something they just have to put up with because they live in the city. A lot of people are suffering, they’re just suffering in silence,” she says.
The health effects of noise are understudied, but some epidemiological research has implicated long-term exposure to loud sounds in the development of cardiovascular disorders. Unlike air pollution, which reduces health directly, the impact of noise occurs through the way it drags on other aspects of healthy living.