Another shout out for silence...


Today's BBC headline "Dementia rates 'higher near busy roads' (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38506735) - they must have read yesterday's Balancore blog...

So what can you do to reduce your chance of neurodegeneration (brain cell loss or damage) if you live or work near a busy road?

1. Invest in some earplugs at night.

Background noise at night has been associated with increased levels of cortisol production (Spreng 2004), which can cause a lack of blood to the brain and other areas of the body.

I come from motorcycle stock (in case you are interested, the men in family have all won the IOM TT) so earplugs have been a big part of my life! For years, all motorcyclists seem to rely on the most basic foam earplugs which work by "absorbing sound waves by increasing air resistance" (Sanders R 2015). These can be found in many places online or in your local chemist (see some basic earplug options here). This may however account for my father's consistent "shout" which he puts down to years of bikes. Therefore, I would only recommend such basic earplugs for day to day life.

These days, more snazzy ones are available which I would certainly be calling towards if I were involved in high volume activities. For more information on ear defenders, this is a lovely summary of what you should be looking for and taking into account: www.shponline.co.uk.

(N.B. Please be aware of the safety concerns around wearing earplugs at night - e.g. ensure you can hear fire/smoke alarms; get a regular ear clean check up; don't become reliant to sleeping with earplugs - wear them intermittently. Read more here.)

2. Close the door for 20 minutes

If you live close to a road or work in an environment where there is consistent background noise, try to get into a quiet space for 20 minutes a day. Not only has background noise been associated with increased risk of neurodegeneration, it has been predicted that even short bursts of silence may help with the brain's regeneration of brain cells.

3. Swap road noise with soft music

If you really do have a preference for background noise over the sweet sound of silence, research that has been done on short term exposure to classic or relaxing music shows as much brain cell activation as seen with silence (although silence was more beneficial in the long term over 7 days) (Kirste et al. 2015).

I hope these tips help, but most importantly even if you do none of these things, don't stress about it!

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Lucius Annaeus Seneca