Noise is not just damaging to your ears

RESEARCH

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The effects of noise on hearing, and psychological well-being (sleep and nervousness) are well known, but researchers from the Department of Environmental Health, Boston University, along with other scientists from Harvard and the NMR Group, set out to determine whether exposure to aircraft noise increases the risk of hospitalization for cardiovascular diseases.

To do this, they carried out a retrospective study of some 6 million elderly people, 65 years of age or older, living near major airports in the United States. This population corresponds to approximately 15% of the entire US population of older people. The research team superimposed contours of aircraft noise levels for 89 airports onto census block population data in order to assess corresponding health insurance statistics.

Results were adjusted to take into account confounding factors, including air pollution, proximity to roadways, individual demographics, specific chronic conditions, and socioeconomic status. After averaging data across all airports and using a 90th centile noise exposure metric, they found that elderly people living in residential areas with a 10 dB higher noise exposure had a 3.5% higher cardiovascular hospital admission rate, compared to controls. Characterizing the relationship between aircraft noise and cardiovascular disease is important in evaluating the potential benefits of intervention strategies, according to the research team.

Interestingly, the study’s findings are consistent with former investigations on the relationship between traffic noise and cardiovascular disease.

Source: Correia AW, et al. Residential exposure to aircraft noise and hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases: multi-airport retrospective study. BMJ 2013 Oct 8; 347:f5561.

C.S.