Saturday, April 7, 2018

Occupational exposure to loud noise increases risk of heart disease

Noise-induced hearing loss is the most obvious outcome of exposure to loud noise. Now a study says that high blood pressure (BP) and high cholesterol are also more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work.

Researchers from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examined the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty and heart conditions within industries and occupations in the US as well as the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

·         25% of current workers were found to have a history of work-related noise exposure.
·         12% of current workers had hearing difficulty, 24% had high BP and 28% had high cholesterol levels.
·         58% of hearing difficulty, 14% cases of high BP and 9% cases of high cholesterol in the study could be attributed to noise at work.

The study was published online March 14, 2018 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Noise is an unwanted intrusive sound. A loud noise is 85 db or higher, or if a person has to raise his/her voice to speak with someone standing at a distance of 3 feet.

Noise is a recognized environmental stressor, which has both physiological and psychological effects. It is associated with anxiety, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, insomnia, annoyance, stress. Progressive hearing loss may result from continuous and repeated exposure to loud noise. The safe limit for sounds at 85 db or less is 8 hours of exposure.

Loud noise affects speech intelligibility and consequently work performance and increases chances of errors. Conversation has to be conducted at higher dbs for clear speech communication because of noise interference (normal conversation is between 60-70 db).

The Central Pollution Control Board has recommended noise standards during day time (between 6 a.m. and 9 pm) and night time (between 9 pm and 6 am) as follows: for industrial areas (75 db day time and 70 db night time), commercial areas (65 db day time and 55 db night time), residential areas (55 db day time and 45 db night time) and silence zones (50 db day time and 40 db night time). Areas around hospitals, educational institutes and courts are silence zones.

Hospitals are noisy work places. Control of noise levels is very important in hospitals for patient well-being and healing. Noise creates an unhealthy work environment for doctors. It affects concentration and increases the chances of mistakes, which can be costly for the doctors and hospitals. Inability to hear the warning patient monitoring alarm over the general background noise in an ICU may have potentially disastrous outcome. Moreover, doctors too are prone to develop high BP and other negative effects on health.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
Vice President CMAAO
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Immediate Past National President IMA

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