By Dr. Michael Wald
According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety Health Administration, thirty million Americans are exposed to occupational noise that is considered hazardous. The Department of Labor Statistics reports that 125,000 people per year suffer significant hearing loss. Hearing loss is only one of many health issues caused by environmental noise. Proactive means can and should be taken by individuals to avoid reduced quality of life and shorter lifespan.
A variety of health problems are caused by noise in our environment. Some of these health dangers include:
• speech delays
• difficulty formulating words
• hearing loss
• ear pain
• unexplained dizziness
• ischemic heart disease
• sleep disturbances
• childhood developmental issues (including speech and reading difficulties)
• violent behavior
• reduced ability to deal with stress
• easy to anger
• and more
Symptoms of Environmental Noise
The early symptoms of environmental noise pollution might be a mild sensation of stuffy ears or ringing in the ears known as tinnitus. Sometimes the only sign of early damage to the inner ear from noise is difficulty understanding speech and hearing high frequency noise. Depending upon the health issue, a large number of symptoms can manifest in individuals that look like the disease. For example, if hypertension were caused by environmental noise the symptoms might be headaches, fainting or noise bleeds. If ischemic heart disease was caused by environmental noise, the symptoms might be chest pain or difficulty breathing.
Noise at Work
Employees in a workplace should not be exposed to anything greater than 85 dBA (decibala) per eight-hours daily. Workplace noise for construction workers allows a higher limit of 90 dBA per eight hours of noise exposure. However, outdoor noise should never exceed between 60 and 65 dBA. Workplace noise can result from a variety of sources, including noisy vehicles, aircraft’s, loud music and television and road traffic.
Outdoor (everyday) Noise Limits
As stated above, outdoor noise should never be louder than 60-65 dBA. It is important to realize that a person may not recognize that they are exposed to loud noises especially if they are distracted or have been exposed to an environment of noise on a routine basis; in this instance, one might become accustomed to noise, but still suffer many series health effects. Sources of outdoor noise can include: yelling in the household, noisy vehicles, aircraft’s, loud music and television and road traffic.
What can be done to minimize or eliminate health risks from excessive noise?
1. Be aware of your home, outside and working environments.
2. Take notice of the noise levels.
3. Do other people think that it is noise? Just lowering a few decibels of occupational noise can make a huge difference in one’s general health and wellbeing and susceptibility to the chronic health problems mentioned in this article.
4. Old equipment making excessive noise could be replaced in the work or home environment; refurbished and should be maintained properly.
5. Structural barriers can be constructed between sources of noise and the person within “ear shot” of the noise.
6. Earplugs and headphones can be used as well, but these are impractical depending upon one’s circumstances.
Noise adds up!
Damage from noise has cumulative effects and affects individuals quite differently; one person notices the noise and another does not; some individuals suffer health issues from noise and others do not, etc. How could someone not notice noise? Think of this like being exposed to secondhand smoke from a smoker; at first you cough but soon you become sensitized to the smoke and no longer cough or even consciously smell the smoke. Nonetheless, the smoke, just like noise, continues to exert its damaging effects on the body ranging from heart disease to insomnia.
Prevention and Treatment
Hearing loss universally inevitable with aging is known as presbycusis. This hearing loss is not treatable once it occurs. This is because the hearing loss affects the inner ear along with the auditory nerve. The term neurosensory loss is the type experienced in some aging persons, and with noise damage to the hearing nerve, that is not helped with medications or hearing aids. Hearing aids do not help those with neurosensory hearing loss because they only elevate the intensity of the unheard noises and do not improve hearing. In other words, hearing aids only make louder the inaudible noise heard by those with neurosensory hearing loss.
Slowing down nerve degeneration and improving upon your propensity for developing hearing loss, may be possible if you consider the following:
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article shortly…..
– Dr. Michael Wald, aka The Blood Detective, is the director of nutritional services at Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, located in Westchester New York. He has appeared on ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, Channel 11 PIX, Channel 12 News, CNN, The Food Network and other media outlets. Dr. Wald earned the name Blood Detective for his reputation to find problems that are often missed by other doctors. He earned an MD degree, is a doctor of chiropractic and a certified dietician-nutritionist. He is also double-board certified in nutrition. He has published over a dozen books with three additional titles due for release late 2013 including: Frankenfoods – Genetically Modified Foods: Controversies, Lies & Your Health and Gluten-A-Holic: How to Live Gluten Free and the Blood Detective’s Longevity Secrets. Dr. Wald can be reached at: www.intmedny.com or www.blooddetective.com or by calling: 914-242-8844.