Loud noises assault the heart

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 17th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

No doubt many commuters have wondered to themselves, or even out loud, how long it will be until the driver next to them who’s blasting the bass and whomping those woofers goes deaf. But it turns out that sheer decibels aren’t just bad on the ears… excessive noise can also be bad for the heart.

Looking at the universal annoyance of noise, a German team of researchers not only studied noise’s ability to grate on one’s nerves but also its assault on the cardiovascular system. The researchers compared data from more than two-thousand patients who’d had heart attacks and the same number of control patients. All had been admitted to health-care facilities in Berlin between nineteen-ninety-eight and two-thousand-one.

Noise in the outdoor environment… annoyances like loud vehicle traffic, horns and industrial sounds… upped individuals’ risk of heart attack as much as two- to three-fold. But the study revealed that although some high-decibel distractions can be annoying and ostensibly stressful, actual loudness or piercingly high decibels were more related to ultimate risk.

Women were more likely to be annoyed by environmental noise compared with men, which also may have contributed to health risks. One possible explanation? Women may have spent more time at home than men… so when they encountered noise they weren’t accustomed to it proved more bothersome.

Experts say one way to abate some of these decibel dangers would be to enact stricter noise pollution standards, as well as noise safety levels on worksites that crank out the cacophony.