Growing evidence that noise is bad for your health

Recent research suggests that it might be more damaging to your health than you think.

Growing evidence that noise is bad for your health

Does it ever feel like modern life is just getting louder? Whether it be the traffic noise, the fallout from noisy pub or even the aircraft noise, city life is more cacophonous than it has ever been. And recent research suggests that it might be more damaging to your health than you think.

The latest research points to a link between aircraft noise and high blood pressure, especially if the exposure occurs at night. There was a link between the noise around a London, UK airport and an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and cardiovascular disease in the surrounding area. There was another study which pointed to the same conclusion but went even further, suggesting that every 10 decibels of noise from an aircraft led to an increase in high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes by 7 – 17 percent.

So, aircraft noise can be a serious threat to our health, but new developments suggest that it’s not only those living next to airports that need to be concerned. The recent publication of recommended noise pollution limits by the WHO historically focuses on aircraft, road and rail noise. But the latest report adds two new sources of noise: leisure noise and wind turbines.

Why leisure noise and wind turbines?

Why has leisure noise been added to the list? With 50 percent of the world’s population now settled in cities, more people are living closer to each other than ever before. This leads to more dense living conditions and conflict over shared spaces. One of these spaces is sound. With mixed use development, we see the line between residential and commercial areas becoming increasingly blurred. This leads to people living next to nightclubs, bars, restaurants and sports stadiums. The WHO limits are based on these sources, as well as the worrying rise in people listening to music on their headphones at alarming volumes.

Living next to a bar or restaurant can have a debilitating effect on your sleep. Have you ever been outside a bar during closing time? It is almost as loud as being inside the bar itself! With drunken antics and people shouting to their friends, it’s no wonder that people don’t get any sleep. and a lack of sleep can have serious consequences for your career, health and personal relationships.

Wind turbines are a new addition as they are surprisingly loud when you live near one. In one such set of windmills in the north of England, residents nearby complained about a noise that sounds like someone is ‘mixing cement in the sky’. Also consider the fact that the wind turbines never switch off, and you will understand that the persistent noise can become troublesome. This is the reason why wind turbine noise has been added to the list.

How noise can kill

What are the reasons why noise is harmful? Noise exposure has been proven to raise the heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to increases in blood pressure and blood glucose concentrations. Consequently, the noise can the lead to thinning of the arteries from fat deposits, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Regular sleep disturbance can also have serious health effects. Being exposed to sound affects your heart rate and breathing. This sleep disturbance can be even worse than aircraft noise and road traffic, according to some studies.

Noise is becoming a louder issue in today’s world, and it is high time that those in charge pay more attention to the mental and physical effects of excessive noise. We can do this by blocking the sound at source, but it would be even better if we could make our cities less noisy to begin with. The absolute first step for our society, however, is for noise pollution to be able to enter the public consciousness as something as damaging to our health as polluted air, water or waste.

Until then however, we would be wise to look at ways in which we can limit our own exposure to noise. Try to live away from commercial areas and transport hubs, listen to music on your headphones at a sensible volume, and do whatever you can to get a good night’s sleep. Your heart will thank you.

Contact Dr. Ivory for a comprehensive hearing evaluation

If you’re concerned that your work or living environment may be damaging your hearing, it’s important to have a thorough hearing exam right away. At La Canada hearing, our expert audiologist will give you a clear picture of your current hearing health, work with you to treat any existing hearing loss, and help you to protect the hearing you have. Contact our office and make your appointment today!

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
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Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

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