The Impact of Noise on Overall Health

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According to Lancet, occupational, recreational, and environmental noise exposure poses serious medical risk that goes beyond the scope of hearing damage.

An analysis team examined how noise impacts an array of health indicators such as hearing loss, cardiovascular disease, cognitive performance, mental health, and sleep disturbance. Upon examining these indicators, this study shows how noise has auditory and non-auditory consequences.

In the past, occupational noise and its negative impact on hearing has been studied extensively as a type of noise exposure. Recently, other forms of noise have been taken into consideration such as noise from bars/clubs or personal musical players as well as environmental noise from road, rail and air traffic.

Members of the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise analyzed both noise-related hearing issues as well as effects of noise on physical and mental well-being. Their results were put together to summarize findings related to noise exposure and how this effects the overall health of a person.

For the past five years, the team of experts has focused in the fields of otolaryngology, cardiovascular medicine, sleep medicine, psychology, and hospital medicine to determine the effects of noise to health. Experts already know that the primary effect of noise exposure is hearing loss, which is the most common occupational disease of the United States.

According to Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry of the University of Pennsylvania, “Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, which annually amounts to an estimated $242 million spent on compensation for hearing loss disability.” There has been a development of preventative and therapeutic compounds that will treat noise-related hearing loss conditions, but these innovative treatments will be available in the next 10 years.

Although hearing loss has caused damage, non-auditory effects of environmental and social noise have been overlooked when examining noise related conditions. According to the World Health Organization, more than one million disability adjusted life years are lost in the Western European member states, due to sleep disturbance and community annoyance.

The experts found that long-term exposure to environmental noise affects the cardiovascular system, causing issues such as hypertension, ischemic heart diseases and strokes. The study also encompassed sleep disturbance, children’s cognition, and negative effects in hospitals for both patients and staff.

Despite, the research findings, there is still ongoing debate on what noise level is considered safe and how adequate control groups could shed more detailed information on this topic. Dr. Basner recommends studies that will find health effects of noise showing the strong link between acute and long term environmental and social noise exposure and various health outcomes.

Authors hope that their findings will raise awareness about the negative effects of noise and motivate campaigns for adults and children that will promote noise-avoiding and noise reducing behaviors which will help prevent health concerns. They concluded the following: “Efforts to reduce noise exposure will eventually be rewarded by lower amounts of annoyance, improved learning environments for children, improved sleep, lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, and, in the case of noise exposure in hospitals, improve patient outcomes and shorter hospital stays. “

Bainer and his colleagues have been awarded funding by the Federal Aviation Administration to study the impact of aircraft noise on sleep and work on developing models that predict sleep disruption for different aircraft noise level and profiles.

Resource:

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/impact_noise_overall_health-123409

 Valley Occupational Medical Center

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