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A noisy workplace doubles the risk of heart disease

October 06, 2010
  • Persistently loud noise on the job may increase the risk of heart disease.
Persistently loud noise on the job may increase the risk of heart disease. (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images )

Years spent in a noisy workplace may take a toll on both hearing and heart health. A study published Wednesday found that persistent noise in the workplace doubled the chances of an employee developing serious heart disease.

Previous studies that have looked at the effect of loud noise on the heart have produced mixed results. For the new study, researchers examined a database of more than 6,000 employees ages 20 and older who were surveyed about lifestyle, occupation and health. The participants were grouped according to those who endured loud noise at work (meaning it was difficult to talk at a normal volume) for at least three months and those who did not experience loud noise. The study found 21% of workers, mostly men, endured noisy workplaces. They were two to three times more likely to have heart disease compared with workers who did not experience noise.

The workers who endured loud noise also were more likely to smoke and weigh more than workers who experienced quieter environments. But noise emerged as a risk factor for heart disease even when controlling for those other risk factors.

The authors of the study, published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, speculate that noise exerts the same kind of stress on the body as sudden strong emotion or physical exertion. These kinds of stress trigger the release of chemicals that constrict blood flow through the arteries.

The study has some flaws. For example, the researchers couldn't rule out that the increased risk of heart disease in an noisy workplace wasn't also due to other factors, such as air pollution, shift work or workload. But the research does suggest persistent loud noise can effect health and "deserves special attention," the authors said. It's also a risk factor that would seem fairly easy to remedy with a good pair of ear plugs or a protective head set.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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