The hazards of noise pollution


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The New Zealand Herald recently ran an article on the health hazards of increasing ambient noise. It focused on hearing loss but also on the other disorders potentially associated with exposure to noise.

According to the article, there are two types of health problems related to hearing: the first is hearing loss, and the second – less well known – is a set of disorders caused by noise. These problems can include heart disease and diabetes, as well as other stress-related conditions.

The difficulty, the article reports, is that because of the way hearing works, it’s hard to tell whether hearing loss is age-related or associated with increasing noise in our environment. How can we tell if society is really getting noisier and making hearing loss worse? Dr David Welch, head of the Audiology Section at the University of Auckland, says that this is particularly tough to determine.

“The problem is that people develop hearing loss naturally and noise exposure accelerates that, but you can’t easily tell the difference,” Welch told the NZ Herald. Talking about the specific context in New Zealand, he pointed out that hearing-related claims through the country’s universal no-fault accidental injury scheme had been increasing until “the government changed the law so people had to have more noise-induced hearing loss before they could claim. Rather than resolving the problem, there was a switch to a financial strategy,” he added.

Only occupational, injury, and treatment-related deafness are covered by the scheme. Listening to music too loudly is not, for instance. “Dangerous noise exposure is completely avoidable,” said Welch. “We’ve only ourselves to blame if we don’t avoid it.”

Source: NZ Herald