Research shows what smart people have known all along: Noise pollution such as traffic harms the heart.

Types of Noise that Can Raise the Risk of Developing Heart Disease

• Traffic
• Aircraft
• Industrial
• Recreational

Excessive environmental noise pollution, even when below hearing-harmful levels, can cause a number of damaging health effects such as sleep disturbance, physiological stress and cognitive impairment.

Research also suggests that noise can negatively affect the heart.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, noise pollution is any unwanted or disturbing sounds, and its impacts should be calculated not just by how loud the noise is, but by how long the exposure is (APHA, 2013).

Research indicates that increased nighttime noise exposure increases levels of stress hormones and vascular oxidative stress and is said to be associated with vascular damage, stress response, cell death and changes in the expression for genes responsible for the regulation of vascular function (Münzel et al., 2018).

Traffic — Among the Most Unbearable Sounds

Hearing continuous traffic (especially trucks barreling by on a frequent basis) while inside one’s home has also been shown to increase blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output, likely the result of the release of stress hormones (Munzel, Gori, Babisch, & Basner, 2014).

The repercussions of this noise exposure are not as obvious when studied in occupational settings.

How Noise Pollution Damages Your Heart

It is believed that noise will affect the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system, in turn disrupting the homeostasis of humans.

Stress will lead to the activation of different neuro-hormonal systems which attempt to cope with the stressor.

These include activation of sympathetic responses (fight or flight response) and corticosteroids (a defeat reaction) (Munzel et al., 2014).

This stress response changes a number of physiological functions including blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction, cardiac output and blood lipid levels.

The noise-induced dysregulation and disturbed metabolic function encourages the development of chronic cardiovascular disorders (Babisch, 2011).

Can you prevent cardiovascular problems caused by noise pollution?

  • It’s advised to be mindful of environments with excessive noise and perhaps even keep a pair of earplugs in your bag or pocket in case you find yourself in these environments.
  • You may want to invest in a pair of custom fit earplugs which can be obtained from your local audiologist.
  • Another preventive measure is to install “acoustic curtains” if the noise is coming into your home from outside.
  • Finally, keep a fan running to drown out outdoor noise pollution. An indoor water fountain or white noise generator will also help.

Dr. Strom is a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and has received several awards including Brooklyn College’s Excellence In Audiology Award.
victoria dillonVictoria J. Dillon is a doctoral audiology student interning at Advanced Hearing NY. 
Top image: Shutterstock/michaelheim
Sources database/2014/07/16/12/50/environmental-noise-pollution-control