Noise pollution is well-known, but it’s not regarded as being overly important compared to that of air or water. But that may change with this new link showing that people are dying early after exposure to excessive noise.
This idea began in 2003 when researchers started looking at the effects of noise across Europe. They found noise caused two percent of Europeans to have poor quality sleep (not surprising). They found that noisy traffic caused three percent to develop ringing in the ears (also not surprising).
But these effects are nothing compared to what noise may really do. Noise can raise the level of stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol. If they stick around in the bloodstream for long enough, they begin to raise the risk of major problems. Essentially, noise is causing stress in the blood and this is a well-known cause of strokes, high blood pressure, immune system disorders, and heart failure.
One figure from 2006 has it that of 101,000 British adults who died of heart disease, more than 3,000 were caused chronic noise exposure.
And all of this happens silently inside you. In one important health breakthrough, researchers compared families with high exposure to noise with those in quieter environments. They also looked at people who were diagnosed with heart problems to see if there was any crossover. This data was overlaid on maps of Europe highlighting noisy cities.
They discovered a person’s threshold for noise in the night is 50 decibels — the sound of light traffic. Yet the planet is getting busier and noisier, and we are more prone to stress because of it.
Do you feel stressed when startled by loud noise, or by the constant drum of city traffic? This study shows that it could be doing you more damage than you think. It also means that rural surroundings may be saving people’s lives. That’s a stretch, but not a huge one. The World Health Organization has for years required all mid- or large-sized cities in Europe to develop special maps that detail where
the noise of traffic is greatest.
Heart disease, matched only recently by cancer, is the leading cause of death worldwide. All efforts to prevent it should be strongly considered. This story goes to show, some efforts exist outside of what you eat, your lifestyle choices, and how much you exercise.