How do Nature Sounds Impact Your Health?
Close your eyes for a moment and think about your favorite place in nature. What sounds do you hear? And how do you normally feel when you tune into the natural world? Maybe it’s a quiet beach where you can hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline. Or maybe it’s a local park, filled with bird songs, a rushing creek, and the bustling of leaves moving in the wind. Parks and wilderness protected areas offer important soundscapes, where people can listen to natural sounds without the distractions of human-related noise. These protected areas are important for our environment, and our health as well.
The sounds of nature have influenced humans throughout our history. Nature sounds have inspired poems, songs, wonder, and a sense of connection. Sounds also help us to be aware of our surroundings. What we hear influences behavioral and physiological responses. Research shows that exposure to natural sounds can decrease stress, lower pain, improve mood, and even enhance cognitive functioning. Researchers use the term “soundscape” to refer to all of the sounds one can hear in an environment. These sounds include biological sounds, such as bird songs; geological sounds, such as wind and rain; and anthropogenic sounds, such as sounds generated from cars or airplanes. Anthropogenic sounds are also referred to as noise. Noise not only makes it harder to hear natural sounds, but noise pollution affects the health and wellbeing of wildlife, leading to altered and decreased biological sound.
Noise pollution is also detrimental to human health and wellbeing. Noise exposure is linked to hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances and stress. While all people are negatively impacted by noise pollution, children are at most at risk.
Preserving soundscapes is yet another reason that we need to protect our wild environments and incorporate natural soundscapes into urban areas to make them more sustainable. Natural soundscapes are important to public health.