Heart Health

19 June 2017

Nighttime airport noise may raise heart problem risk

There is evidence that people who are exposed to airport noise, especially at night, have a heightened risk for death and hospitalisation due to heart issues.

Living near an airport might be convenient if you travel a lot, but the aircraft noise, especially at night, might drive you up the walls. An airplane can produce up to 150 decibels during take-off. In addition, the evidence is now piling up that it might be more than just your ears that are being damaged…

Aircraft noise, particularly at night, may be linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart flutter in people who live near large airports, a new study suggests.

It's one of the first long-term follow-up studies of aircraft noise, but more research is needed to draw conclusions about cause and effect, the researchers said.

Proximity a key role

Research has shown that people who lived near airports were at heightened risk for death and hospitalisation for heart issues.

There is emerging evidence that exposure to aircraft noise may increase the risk of high blood pressure according to a Health24 article.

Exposure to an aircraft taking off can also cause permanent damage to the ears. A Health24 article reported that working at or living near an airport is a big risk factor for hearing.

South Africa boasts three world class international airports in the country's three biggest cities (Johannesburg, cape Town and Durban). These airports are comparable to many other more first world destinations. Oliver Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg is South Africa (and Africa's) busiest airport and can handle up to 28 million people annually.

The study

For the study, Klea Katsouyanni, of the University of Athens department of hygiene, epidemiology and medical statistics, and colleagues analysed data from 420 people living near Athens International Airport in Greece. As many as 600 aircraft take off and land at the airport every day.

Nearly 45% of participants were exposed to more than 55 dB of daytime aircraft noise. Just over 27% were exposed to more than 45 dB of nighttime aircraft noise, the findings showed.

Between 2004 and 2006, and during a 2013 follow-up, 71 of the participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure and 44 with heart flutter (cardiac arrhythmia). Another 18 had heart attacks, the investigators found.

Nighttime risk

Exposure to aircraft noise, especially at night, was associated with all high blood pressure cases. Each additional 10 dB of nighttime aircraft noise was linked with a nearly 70% increased risk of high blood pressure. When only new cases were included, every additional 10 dB more than doubled high blood pressure risk, Katsouyanni's team said.

The study was published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Nighttime aircraft noise also was associated with double the risk of a heart flutter diagnosis. But the finding was statistically significant only when all cases, not just new ones, were analysed, the researchers noted in a journal news release.

The study authors added that an increased stroke risk was not statistically significant, possibly because of the small number of cases involved.

Read more:

Everyday noise levels may affect heart

Noise and air pollution hardens arteries

Mechanical heart valve noise may cause sleepless nights