Noise Pollution Can Make You Fat -- and Kill You

But telling everyone to shut up probably won't bring peace and quiet

Studies show that noise can really screw with your peace of mind. It stresses you out, makes you less productive and can even make women eat more. If that’s not enough to make you want to muffle your loudmouth cubicle mate with a Twinkie or 12, research shows it can also pretty much kill you.

An excerpt from A.J. Jacobs’ newest book, Drop Dead Healthy, claims noise is “one of the great health hazards of our time -- the secondhand smoke of our ears.” Besides all the pleasant side effects listed above, loud noises can amp up your heart rate and blood pressure, and are linked to heart attacks and strokes. Oh, did we forget to mention hearing loss?

My husband and I moved out of New York City largely in search of a quieter, more serene existence, but instead of throbbing car alarms and wailing sirens, we got yipping dogs and wind chimes that could wake the dead. The heater in our 1929 home sounds like an airplane is landing on our roof, while our next-door neighbor likes to play the drums in his open garage. I’ve noticed that the vein in my husband’s temple pulses to the beat of the AC/DC jams, which means he’s probably one drum solo away from an aneurysm. Maybe he should do as Jacobs did and wear earplugs everywhere he goes.

While I'm all for racket reduction and awareness about noise pollution (car alarms should be outlawed; loud talkers need to wear a noise-canceling mask), I think we have to learn to tune out a certain amount of clatter, too, since there's clearly no escaping it.

Telling everyone to shut up isn't exactly helpful. Sure, you could move to woods Ted Kaczynski style, but wildlife is also pretty damn noisy (Did I mention the squawking feral parrots?), and, apparently, people who live alone are weird and chronically depressed. So, our only hope is to carry decibel meters in our pockets and pummel trespassers with rotten eggs (my personal fantasy), or get a little more Zen about it, and observe the noises without judgment until they either don’t bother us any more (it worked for two seconds in meditation class once) or -- the one plus side to noise-induced damage -- we’re too hearing-impaired to care.

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