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Turn down the volume: How noise can harm your health


Approximately 38 million Americans suffer from impaired hearing and it’s estimated that dangerous levels of noise in the workplace will result in one in four workers developing hearing loss, according to the Center for Hearing and Communication.

In recognition of International Noise Awareness Day today, take a moment to reflect on how noise might be disrupting your daily life and, possibly, harming your health. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization’s European office:

There is sufficient evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the population’s exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects. Therefore, environmental noise should be considered not only as a cause of nuisance but also a concern for public health and environmental health.

…at least one million healthy life years are lost every year from traffic-related noise in the western part of Europe.

The study breaks out the results into several specific types of noise health impacts. Every year in the EU, noise is estimated to cause:

  • 61,000 lost years of healthy living due to noise-related heart disease
  • 45,000 years lost due to cognitive impairment of children
  • 903,000 years due to sleep disturbance
  • 22,000 years due to tinnitus
  • 587,000 years due to annoyance

At Stanford, scientists are exploring stem cell-based research to better understand the molecular basis of hearing in order to develop better treatments for hearing loss. Although they’ve made significant progress, treatments are still a ways off so it’s best to protect your hearing.

Previously: Getting a good night’s sleep, Popular vuvuzela poses health risk to World Cup fans and Growing new inner-ear cells: a step toward a cure for deafness
Photo by: mollypop

One Response to “ Turn down the volume: How noise can harm your health ”

  1. Sarinne Fox Says:

    A good reminder to consider the effect of noise in our lives. When you think about it, it’s not surprising that noise is harmful to our health. To our evolutionary ancestors, with no industrial sources of noise, a loud sound often signaled danger, so our bodies are hard-wired to become instantly alert and ready for “fight or flight” when we hear loud sounds. It’s a great survival trait to be prepared for emergencies that arise, but to be constantly fed the warning signal (noise) when there is no emergency just keeps our nervous systems on high alert for no reason, which is the very definition of chronic stress. If we reduce the noise in our lives, the level of stress will automatically come down too. It’s worth the effort, for our physiological health and for our mental well-being.


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