NIOSH Study Shows Association Between Noise Exposure and Heart Disease Risk Factors

"Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention – it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol," said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, M.D. "Work site health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers."

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work, according to a NIOSH study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Researchers found that a quarter of U.S. workers reported a history of noise exposure at work.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty, and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations. The researchers also examined the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

Loud noise is one of the most common U.S. workplace hazards and affects about 22 million workers each year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol are both key risk factors.

"Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention – it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol," said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, M.D. "Work site health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers."

The analysis by NIOSH researchers showed the following:

  • Twenty-five percent of current workers had a history of work-related noise exposure; 14 percent were exposed in the last year.
  • Twelve percent of current workers had hearing difficulty, 24 percent had high blood pressure, and 28 percent had high cholesterol. Of these cases, 58 percent, 14 percent, and 9 percent, respectively, can be attributed to occupational noise exposure.
  • Industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining (61%), construction (51%), and manufacturing (47%).
  • Occupations with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were production (55%); construction and extraction (54%); and installation, maintenance, and repair (54%).

"This study provides further evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and the potential to prevent these conditions if noise is reduced," said study co-author Liz Masterson, Ph.D. "It is important that workers be screened regularly for these conditions in the workplace or through a health care provider so interventions can occur. As these conditions are more common among noise-exposed workers, they could especially benefit from these screenings."

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