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Tue, 23 Sep 2008

Noise Hurts

Studies show noise is a health risk

There is growing evidence that noise-related stress is a significant public health hazard. According to a report from the World Health Organisation, unwanted noise is causing hearing impairment including tinnitus, disturbing our sleep and triggering stress hormones which could in turn affect the immune system and metabolism.

It also makes us feel helpless and more aggressive and increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, accounting for an estimated 3% of ischeamic heart disease (the most common cause of death in the EU) in Europe. "There is increasing evidence that air and road traffic noise might be related to high blood pressure," says Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at Barts and the London School of Medicine. "Exposure in school to aircraft noise is also linked to reading impairment in children."

Another study, by Cornell University in New York, found that workers in an open-plan office with constant exposure to hubbub from machinery, telephones and office chatter had higher levels of adrenaline in their urine than workers in a quiet, self-contained work station. The open-plan group were also less effective at puzzle solving than the quiet group, who slept better, had better digestion, and were less irritable.

"When people get annoyed by noise they get stressed," says Stewart, who went on to set up the National Noise Association pressure group. "Constant exposure to even moderate levels of noise can be harmful. One Austrian study showed that children living on a main road had shorter concentration spans than those who didn't."

More at The Guardian including a list of things to do.

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