Hearing management

06 October 2015

Loud noise may increase your heart disease risk

Past research has linked noise exposure, especially in workplaces, to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other illnesses.


People with long-term exposure to loud noise at work or in leisure activities may be at increased risk of heart disease, a U.S. study finds.

Researchers found the strongest link in working-age people with high-frequency hearing loss, which is typically the result of chronic noise exposure.

Individual information lacking

"Compared with people with normal high-frequency hearing, people with bilateral high-frequency hearing loss were approximately two times more likely to have coronary heart disease," said lead author Dr Wen Qi Gan of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington.

Past research has already linked noise exposure, especially in workplaces, to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other illnesses, Gan and his colleagues write in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. But many of these studies lacked individual information about actual noise exposure, relying instead on average decibel levels in the person's environment.

Read: Noise levels of common sounds

High-frequency hearing loss, the researchers say, is a better indicator of exposure to loud noise over time.

To investigate the connection with heart disease, the researchers looked at data on 5,223 participants in national health surveys between 1999 and 2004. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 69 at the time they were surveyed.

Overall, people with 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 age 50 and under, who were also most likely to be exposed to loud noise at work, the heart disease risk was increased four-fold.

There was no link to heart disease among people with one-sided hearing loss or loss of lower-frequency hearing, the study team notes, further supporting the idea that noise exposure is the culprit.

Read: Can deaf people 'hear' voices

The study only looked at people at one time point, however, and cannot prove that noise or hearing loss are direct causes of heart disease. The researchers also acknowledge that they relied on study participants' own recollections about their work and leisure-time noise exposure.

Nonetheless, Gan said, accumulating evidence suggests that exposure to loud noise can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Gan advises people to eliminate or reduce excessive noise exposure in the home and workplace. "Using earmuffs and earplugs can reduce personal noise exposure," he told Reuters Health by email.

Read more:

Will everyone wear hearing aids in the future?

Certain antibiotics linked to hearing loss

Is inaudible noise making you deaf?

Image: Ear and heart from iStock


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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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