From construction projects to busy roads, airplanes and railways, human noise is everywhere. It is an invisible cause of stress, posing serious risks to human health and wellbeing.
However, noise also harms animals living in close contact with humans. A greater awareness and more understanding is needed into how noise harms pets, farm and working animals.
Wild animals suffer chronic stress, fertility problems and change their migration routes in response to noise. In fish, vibrations from extreme noise can damage the swim bladder which in turn impacts their hearing and buoyancy.
Inaudible noise (vibrations) can also hurt animals by physically shaking their internal body parts. Farm animals experience high levels of vibration during transport.
One noisy event such as a local music festival or extreme weather can trigger long-term fear in animals. The link between noise and fear has been well studied in dogs using recordings of thunderstorms. This kind of noise sensitivity, which affects up to 50% of pet dogs, is triggered by unexpected noises. It makes animals hide or seek human comfort.
Primates, birds and frogs can adjust in the short term to noisy environments by vocalising louder, similar to raising our voices at noisy parties. But the long-term consequences of animals needing to change their methods of communication hasn’t been studied.
If you take care of confined animals, pay close attention to human activities that generate noise, such as cleaning and gardening, and how the surroundings may reflect sound waves.
You can protect your pets during noisy events, like thunderstorms and firework displays, by providing extra spaces to escape noise. Soft furnishings like pillows or blankets inside a den help absorb sounds. A pile of blankets to crawl under will help to block out noise.
Better regulation is needed to protect animals from construction work and noisy events. Animals don’t have a say in what building projects or music concerts go ahead but they can suffer the consequences.
B Fay Clark and Jacob Dunn writing for The Conversation. Image of a cute pup whose ears are covered by human hands by Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock.