The effects of noise on health

Photo credit: See-ming Lee licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Most people, most audiologists, and most doctors don’t know that noise has non-auditory health effects, but it does.

The scientific evidence is ample and incontrovertible, and well-known in Europe, even if that body of knowledge hasn’t crossed the Atlantic Ocean. That evidence underlies the World Health Organization’s Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region.

This article in Harvard Medicine, published by Harvard Medical School, reviews some of the evidence. As author Stephanie Dutchen notes:

In sectors from government regulation to health care practice, the threats posed by noise remain “often underestimated,” according to the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise.

Researchers and clinicians are trying to change this. They’ve shown that noise pollution not only drives hearing loss, tinnitus, and hypersensitivity to sound, but can cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease; type 2 diabetes; sleep disturbances; stress; mental health and cognition problems, including memory impairment and attention deficits; childhood learning delays; and low birth weight. Scientists are investigating other possible links, including to dementia.

Research also reveals how noise pollution connects with climate change. Many contributors to global warming generate noise, chief among them transportation and fossil fuel extraction and processing.

A quieter world will be a better and healthier world for all.

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