New York Times Health blogger, Nicholas Bakalar, posted a piece on a report by British researchers that suggested that “[c]ontinual exposure to traffic noise may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.” The study, published in The European Heart Journal, noted that, as compared with average noise levels below 55 decibels, “levels above 60 decibels were associated with higher rates of hospital admissions for stroke — 5 percent higher among people 25 to 74 and about 9 percent higher among those over 75. All-cause mortality was 4 percent higher for people in noisy neighborhoods.”
As Bakalar notes, 60 decibels is not especially loud as it “is much quieter than most urban environments and many indoor public places like popular restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and sports arenas.” The researchers suggest that the cumulative effect of constant noise over years could be significant.
If you have a sound meter on your smart phone, load it up when you are at a restaurant, theater, or gym and look at the decibel level. My guess is that if most people did this just to get a sense of the normal sound levels they are continually exposed to, they would be stunned.
Research into the affect of noise on health is at the nascent stage, so more attention and funding has to be directed to this emerging and important field of study. One hopes that once there is some consensus regarding the ill effects of noise on health, that businesses and political bodies will have no choice but to address it. After all, cities and suburbs are not getting any quieter.
Thanks to Daniel Fink, M.D., a noise pollution activist in the Los Angeles area, for the link. Dr. Fink serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association.