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Study: Noise, hearing loss at work have small effect on heart disease risk

Workers in loud environments may experience more hearing loss, but their risk for heart disease doesn't differ significantly from others, a new study has found. Photo by Stux/Pixabay
Workers in loud environments may experience more hearing loss, but their risk for heart disease doesn't differ significantly from others, a new study has found. Photo by Stux/Pixabay

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Long-term exposure to loud noise on the job leads to a slight increase in a person's risk for heart attack, stroke or high blood pressure, a study published Tuesday by the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found.

However, researchers said the rise in risk was not considered significant enough to make workplace noise a serious factor in heart disease development.

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In the assessment of nearly 6,300 working Canadian adults, those exposed to loud noise at work for 10 years or more were less than 10% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, or experience high blood pressure, compared to those who did not work in noisy environments, the data showed.

Those who worked in loud settings for 10 years or less also did not have a substantially higher risk for heart-related complications, according to the researchers.

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"Noise is definitely capable of acting as a stressor and causing reactions in the body, and there is a large science base showing the links between stress and cardiovascular disease," study co-author David Michaud said in a press release.

"But the question remains: Is occupational noise sufficient to cause stress-related illness when exposure is at levels below those known to impair hearing?" said Michaud, a researcher with the Canadian Federal Department of Health in Ottawa.

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About 75% of employees in civilian jobs in the United States are exposed to moderate noise levels at work, while another 13% are exposed to loud noise levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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For this study, Michaud and his colleagues assessed the relationship between noise, hearing loss and risk for heart problems in nearly 6,300 working Canadian adults.

Roughly 1,700 of the adults included in the analysis reported working in noisy environments for 10 years or less, while another 1,100 indicated that they worked in loud settings for 10 years or more, the researchers said.

Just over 45% of participants who worked in noisy settings reported suffering hearing loss in both ears, compared with 16% of those who worked in these environments for 10 years or less and 22% of those who did not work in them, the data showed.

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However, there was little correlation between this noise exposure, or resultant hearing loss, and workers' risk for heart disease, the researchers said.

Though high blood pressure and heart problems were slightly more common among those exposed to workplace noise for 10 years or more compared with those who worked in quieter environments, more of these workers also reported a family history of heart disease.

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"Our main interest was related to hearing among Canadians, not specifically to investigate whether noise exposure may contribute to cardiovascular disease," Michaud said.

"We realized we had the data to look at the relationship between noise and cardiovascular outcomes on a national level," he said.

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