Do you work in a very noisy environment or have a hobby that involves loud noises? You may be at increased risk of heart disease, according to a new study. The study found an association between high frequency hearing loss, typically cause by chronic noise exposure, and a doubled risk of heart disease.
A link between regular noise exposure--especially workplace noise--and coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and other illnesses has been found in previous research. But this study looked at high-frequency hearing loss, which may be a better indicator of exposure to loud noise over time. Previous studies used average decibel levels in a person's environment to determine noise exposure rather than actual noise exposure.
To investigate the connection between noise and heart disease, researchers looked at data on 5,223 participants that was collected in national health surveys between 1999 and 2004. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 69. They found that people who had high-frequency hearing loss in both ears were about twice as likely to have coronary heart disease compared to those with normal high-frequency hearing. Among those aged 50 and under, who were also most likely to be still working and exposed to loud noise at work, the heart disease risk was increased four-fold.
There was no link to heart disease seen in people who had hearing loss in only one ear or who had a loss of lower-frequency hearing, the researchers noted. This supports the idea that loud noise exposure, which affects high-frequency hearing, is the culprit.
The study only studied the participants at people at one time point and cannot prove that noise or hearing loss are the direct causes of heart disease. The researchers also acknowledged that they relied on study participants' own recollections about their work and leisure-time noise exposure.
People who work in a noisy environment should reduce their exposure to excessive noise. Either the noise levels should be lowered or ear protection should be worn.
The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.