Exposure to Constant Noise Can Put Your Health at Risk
Is Silence Really Golden?
Babbling brooks. Chirping birds. Tinkling wind chimes. Some sounds are soothing and therapeutic when listened to over a period of time. However, a recent study has found that not every noise is music to our ears. In fact, some consistent sounds can actually be harmful.
The rumbling sounds of airplanes and cars may not be the most calming sounds in the world, but how can they cause heart disease?
Preliminary research shown in November at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018 revealed a deadly association between chronic environmental noise exposure (outside sounds created by people in cars, on bikes, in airplanes, etc.) and cardiovascular disease. The rumbling sounds of airplanes and cars may not be the most calming sounds in the world, but how can they cause heart disease?
For this study, which was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed 499 Americans (with an average age of 56) who had PET/CT scans of their brains and blood vessels. None of them had existing cardiovascular diseases or cancers at the beginning of the study. Researchers also determined the environmental noise levels for each participant’s home by using the U.S. Department of Transportation’s aviation and highway noise map. The goal of the study was to look at the relationship between each participant’s environmental noise level and future cardiovascular problems by also studying brain activity.
Five years after the initial analysis, researchers reviewed the participants’ most recent medical records and analyzed their amygdalae (regions in the brain that are responsible for emotional responses, memory and decision-making skills).
The key results of the study:
- The participants with the highest environmental noise levels were nearly four times more likely to have a major cardiovascular event compared to those with lower noise exposure levels.
- Participants with the highest amounts of environmental noise exposure had heightened activity in their amygdalae as well as increased inflammation in their arteries.
- The risk of cardiovascular problems is even greater for those who also suffer from high cholesterol, diabetes or air pollution, or if they are smokers.
When blood vessels become inflamed, it is a sign the immune system is mistakenly attacking the blood vessels and is a common risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, constant environmental noises may have a very serious effect on our heart health.
Long-term environmental noise situations that can be harmful:
- Living or working in bustling downtown urban areas
- Living or working next to busy highways
- Living or working close to active railroad tracks
- Living or working near airports
- Living or working next to loud construction sites
- Living or working near busy industrial areas
It’s best to give our minds and bodies a break from all types of noises at least once a day.
Parents can’t always keep their children away from blaring music, but they can take steps to protect their families from chronic environmental noises. Here are some ways to lessen cardiovascular risks due to high environmental noise levels:
Even though environmental noise was the focus of this specific research study, it’s best to give our minds and bodies a break from all types of noises at least once a day for as long as possible. Since other studies have found that constant noise exposure (a wider range of sounds than unwanted vehicle sounds) can cause hearing loss and harmful psychological issues, it’s safe to assume that silence is our body’s friend. It has healing qualities that help the mind and body rejuvenate and reduce stress. As Depeche Mode says, “Enjoy the silence.”