We work in a wide range of environments and some workplaces are just much noisier than others. Hearing impairment is a well-known occupational disease. Recent studies, however, show that occupational noise is also linked to other disorders.
Noise and heart
Chronic exposure to occupational noise seems to be bad for the heart. This is according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). A total of 6307 participants were included, and 21.2% of these reported they are chronically exposed to loud noise at the work place. Among the noised-exposed, the majority were men (83.3%), white, smokers, regular alcohol drinkers, have low level of education and higher body mass index.
Chronic exposure to noise increased the prevalence of angina pectoris, heart attack, coronary heart disease, and isolated diastolic hypertension by two- to three-fold. This increased risk is especially evident in participants who were male, more than 50 years of age, and who smokes.
According to the authors:
In fact, occupational noise is more common than you think. According to the World Health Organization, high levels of occupational noise are a problem in all parts of the world. Here are some figures:
- In 1998, more than 30 million workers were exposed to hazardous noise in the US.
- In Germany, 4 to 5 million people were exposed to noise levels defined as hazardous by WHO. This number is equivalent to 12 to 15% of the German workforce.
- The conditions in developed countries are improving but “the average noise levels in developing countries may be increasing because industrialization is not always accompanied by protection.”
The regions in the world where occupational noise is highest are in Asia and the Western Pacific. These include the emerging markets China and India and the industrialized countries of Japan and South Korea
Aside from cardiovascular problems, occupational noise has been linked to other health problems that include hearing impairment, annoyance, sleep disturbances, disturbance of psychosocial well-being and psychiatric disorders.
Examples of noisy workplaces
- Construction sites, with noise coming from small (e.g. jackhammers) as well as heavy equipment
- Factories and manufacturing plants, with noise coming from machineries
- Audio labs and studios, where audio engineers are exposed to the so- called “recreational sound.”