Nearly 30 per cent of workers and students feel assaulted by the noise in their workplace or onsite place of study compared with just 11 per cent who work or study from home, a survey published on Quebec’s Journée nationale de l’audition suggests.
The survey, conducted by BIP Research for Audition Québec, also found that 70 per cent of respondents felt they were being bothered more than ever by higher noise levels in the environment.
The poll’s results are “not at all surprising, because audiologists have been warning us for years about the effects of noise,” said Paul-André Gallant, president of the Ordre des orthophonistes et audiologistes du Québec.
One-third of respondents said they were overwhelmed by excessive noise day and night.
The almost constant presence of noise in the environment has led to fatigue, irritability and a loss of concentration on the part of 62 per cent of Quebecers, the study said, with 36 per cent also complaining of nervousness and aggressiveness.
Many Quebecers report difficulty in being able to hold a conversation because of ambient noise in public spaces (32 per cent in workplaces, 19 per cent in schools). And 55 per cent of respondents report they suffer at least occasionally from tinnitus, an incessant ringing or other form of noise in one or both their ears.
“Yes, the numbers are high,” said Gallant. “But I think they are accurate. Besides hearing loss … (noise) can generate difficulties in understanding, attention and frustration.”
Nor are extreme situations — such as being at an airport or attending a rock concert — the only reason for concern, Gallant said, adding there is also “the constant environmental noise that we live with and, unfortunately, grow used to.” It isn’t until we are in a place of silence that we notice its presence, he said.
Beyond hearing impairment, which can occur over the long term, constant exposure to noise can result in difficulties in concentration, insomnia and tinnitus.
“We don’t think that noise can cause that and we attribute it to other things. … Unfortunately it’s something that has to be dealt with at the source.”
Even respondents who reported feeling less overwhelmed by noise because they work from home may be idealizing their experience at home, said Gallant.
“In telecommuting, we’re often in continual meetings and wear headphones that are sometimes insufficient, so we increase the volume,” he said. “Meanwhile, we might decide to do some laundry during the meeting and turn up the volume even higher to make sure we follow what’s going on. We notice there are a lot of workers at home who have problems linked to noise.”
While steps can be taken to reduce the noise levels around us, “society needs to acknowledge that this is a real public health problem,” Gallant said.
The survey results were compiled during an online poll conducted of 1,000 Quebecers between March 30-April 12, 2021. A margin of error applied to a sampling of this size would be 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.