Noise – dangerous to blood pressure? Sounding out the facts.


Noise Pollution is everywhere!fingers in ears

Many jobs in the construction industry bring workers into contact with high levels of noise on a daily basis, and unfortunately to the harmful effects which long term exposure to such loud sounds can pose to one’s hearing.

The awareness of this risk leading to occupational hearing loss is supported within industry by Health and Safety Standards, including the wearing of protective gear designed to fit over workers’ ears and thereby block exposure to high levels of noise pollution.

But there are many other times during the day when we are subjected to high levels of noise and it comes in many forms.  In our big cities traffic noise is constant and relentless.  If you live close to a busy airport you are subjected to the roar of planes constantly landing and taking off.

Even recreationally, when we go to the theatre, or attend a rock concert, the sound levels usually measure higher on the decibel meter than is really good for us.

Unfortunately, in most of these situations our brains do too good a job of compensating for the excessive noise levels and we become used to the volume, tend to ignore it and just carry on!


It’s just noise – So no big deal!!

Well, actually it may be a bigger deal than we think because it seems that loud noise is not only harmful to one’s hearing, but has been shown to be dangerous to blood pressure as well.

An revealing study on this very subject – which looked at the relationship between excessive noise and the incidence of high blood pressure – was completed at Athens Airport in Greece between 2004 – 2006.  780 individuals who lived at or near the Airport participated in the initial study.aircraft landing

The study concentrated on plane noise going on during the nightimes (in order to eliminate other daytime noise factors such as traffic, construction, etc.)

In 2013 the authors did a follow up investigation with 420 members of the original test group.  At this time they discovered a 2.6% increase in the number of subjects suffering from high blood pressure.  In other words for every 10 decibel (dB) increase in noise there was a 69% greater chance of hypertension developing within the test group.

The researchers concluded that long term exposure to night time aircraft noise did indeed show an association with an increase in blood pressure.




Why the association?

This is the tricky part as the authors of the study did not release findings as to the cause and effect of the study.  However, some connections can be made, since it is fair to conclude that being subjected to high levels of noise brings about a stressful response in the body, and ongoing stress is well documented to be a contributing factor to the development of high blood pressure.

Who hasn’t been out for dinner at a restaurant only to find that the background music level is so high that you can hardly make yourself heard?  This becomes extremely frustrating and may easily lead to a stress response.  In this case the person is aware of it!

However, the study from Athens Airport also indicated that stress levels can be triggered even when the subjects exposed were not necessarily irritated by the excessive and ongoing noise.   They were subconsciously being affected by it instead.

The attached chart shows typical noise levels measured in decibels:

Click to Enlarge

… and the decibel level of a plane taking off is around around 130 – 150 dB!!

Incidentally, the acceptable levels for noise as measured on the decibel meter are indoors 45 dB maximum, and outside 55 dB maximum!


Bottom Line

Again finding ways to help control our stress is very important so that our bodies are not constantly ‘on edge’ all the time.  We need time to relax and just take a break from stressors, such as high noise levels, and thereby help keep our cortisol (stress hormone) levels in check.


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Excessive noise is not only potentially harmful to one’s hearing, but is also a major stressor in our lives – especially for us city dwellers!  We are surrounded by it, and can be quite unaware of its long-term detrimental effects on our overall health.

But being aware of this is definitely a good start!!


 

 

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