Listening to music louder than necessary is only one of the many ways that we are exposed to noise pollution, and while our primary concern may be with the negative effects of loud noises on our ears, a new study has found that the damaging effects spread to other parts of the body, increasing risk for cardiovascular disease and sleeping problems.
“In our 24/7 society, noise is pervasive and the availability of quiet places is decreasing. We need to better understand how this constant exposure to noise is impacting our overall health,” Dr. Mathias Basner, assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “From earbuds blasting music during subway commutes to the constant drone of traffic heard by those who live or work near congested highways to the beeping of monitors that makes up the soundtrack heard by hospital patients and staff. What we hear all day impacts many parts of our bodies.”
The researchers analyzed five years of observational and experimental studies. They found that exposure to the aforementioned events and more; such as sleep disturbance and community annoyance had damaging auditory and non-auditory effects. They were linked to hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and stroke, as well as sleep disturbance, annoyance, daytime sleepiness, and impaired cognitive performance in children.
The problem with finding a way to curb the negative auditory effects is that many researchers still haven’t come to a consensus on what noise levels are considered safe, the researchers said. But therapeutic compounds used to treat noise-related hearing loss are currently in development.
Two October studies looked at the effects of aircraft noise exposure for people who lived near an airport. The researchers found that the risk for heart disease was 10 to 20 percent higher than someone who lived further away. They also found that those who lived in areas with 10-decibel higher aircraft noise were at a 3.5 percent increased risk of visiting a hospital for heart-related issues.
A 2012 study also found that those who live near traffic noise at 40 decibels were at an increased risk for a heart attack, and that their risk increased by 12 percent for every 10 additional decibels. Although the cause of these non-auditory effects may come from stress related to the noise, the researchers say that more research is necessary to further strengthen that link.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. It kills about 600,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Basner M, Babisch W, Davis A, et al. Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health. The Lancet. 2013.