The sound of silence is rare in a world filled with a cacophony of traffic noise, TVs on top volume, loud neighbours, lawnmowers and barking dogs.
The list goes on, and not only is it annoying, it's bad for your health, which is why turning your home into a peaceful haven is important for wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation considers noise pollution to be the biggest threat to public health after air pollution and describes it as “an underestimated threat that can cause a number of short and long-term health problems”.
These include stress, sleep disturbance, increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and hearing impairment.
The European Environmental Agency says the combined effects of exposure to harmful levels of environmental noise over a long period “can lead to premature death”, which is why the EU proposes to significantly decrease noise pollution by 2020. It will implement an updated noise policy along with measures to reduce noise at source, including improvements in city design.
While the world wakes up to the gravity of the problem, mother and daughter team, Gloria Elliott and Poppy Szkiler, have been involved in a “quiet revolution”.
Gloria is Chief Executive of the Noise Abatement Society and co-founder of Quiet Mark with Poppy. She says, “It should not be labelled as nimbyism when you complain about noise in your community. People that do so are defending a basic human right to peace and quiet.”
The Noise Abatement Society was set up in 1959 by Gloria's father John Connell OBE. On having a letter published in the Telegraph, in which he shared his view that the noise in society had reached an uncomfortable volume, Connell was staggered by the response from the public. He received sacks of letters from others who felt the same and was spurred to lobby the Noise Abatement Act through Parliament in 1960, making noise a statutory nuisance for the first time.
Clearly, the noise that impacts society today is different from that in the 1960s but the irritation remains, and with it the surge of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, responsible for the adverse reactions that, over time, cause serious health problems.
People who live in large towns and cities have the noise problem on their doorstep 24/7. It is exacerbated by high levels of traffic and living in flats and apartments that are often poorly sound insulated. So how can residents wrestle control of their soundscapes?
Floor, wall and loft insulation will help as will fitting acoustic laminated glass to your windows. Pilkington's Optiphon glass is highly regarded.
Poppy Szkiler also suggests putting large pieces of furniture, such as bookcases, up against thin walls and adds: “We reduce our own sound footprint by opting for home technology that is the least noisy of its kind.”
That's where Quiet Mark comes in. It runs acoustic tests on a range of products and the best get a Quiet Mark award. They include home appliances and electrical itemsthat show excellence in low-noise technology or sound insulation.
Poppy says: “Mum and I founded Quiet Mark in 2012 in response to the many public complaints received by the NAS's 24/7 national noise helpline concerning the excessive noise made by household tools, appliances and technology.
“It became clear that part of the problem is that we are all using products in our homes and gardens that add to the collective din. Washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, hairdryers, fans, lawnmowers and hedge trimmers – in some cases, producing noises loud enough to cause hearing problems over time.
“We set about giving people a clear way to identify and buy quieter alternatives. Now when people see the Quiet Mark logo on packaging, they know they are choosing one of the quietest high-performance products that will help create a calmer home soundscape. Imagine if we all did that. It would be a big step towards living more peacefully.”
*For more details visit www.quietmark.com
Quiet Mark essentials for the home include: Rockwool sound insulation slab, £61 per 4.32m², www.travisperkins.co.uk; Grohe Rapid SL Toilet Flush System, £430.80, www.qssupplies.co.uk; Bosch Serie|6 ActiveWater Freestanding Dishwasher, £489, www.bosch-home.co.uk; Vaillant ecoTec Plus Combi Boiler Range, prices vary, www.vaillant.co.uk; John Lewis JLWM1437 washing machine, £499, www.johnlewis.com; Fearne by Swan Quiet Boil Kettle, £49.99, www.shop.swan-brand.co.uk; Melitta CI Touch Coffee Machine and Grinder, £789, www.melitta.co.uk; Pilkington Optiphon Acoustic Laminated Glass, prices vary, www.pilkington.com; Karndean Korlok luxury vinyl tile, www.karndean.com; Fisher & Paykel double dish drawer built-in dishwasher, £1,249, www.johnlewis.com; STIHL cordless hedge trimmer, £99, www.stihl.co.uk