Media release

survey: Noise Pollution Affects Physical and Mental Health 

Survey-Noise-pollution-affects-physical-and-mental-health-Hear-the-World-Foundation

Staefa, Switzerland, April 27, 2010

According to a survey conducted by Hear the World, a global initiative by leading hearing system manufacturer Phonak, exposure to high noise levels was found to not only result in gradual hearing loss, but also stress, aggression or insomnia in 73 percent of those surveyed. In recognition of Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, Hear the World is encouraging all those who are concerned about their hearing health to have their hearing screened this month.

The international survey, which polled 4,405 people between the ages of 14-65 years old in the United States, France, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Italy, found that close to 50 percent of those surveyed have felt “trapped” by noise in the past. Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. In fact, according to the Better Hearing Institute, 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day – leading to more than 800 million people worldwide living with hearing loss.

“Outside of a loud occupational setting, the impact of noise on hearing is often underestimated because the damage may take place gradually. As a result, many people do little to prevent the process of hearing loss that takes place throughout their lives due to the noise pollution around them,” said Dr. Craig Kasper, Chief Audiology Officer of Audio Help Hearing Centers. “Better Hearing and Speech Month is the perfect time to take a moment to think about what you are doing to take care of your hearing and to encourage others to do the same.”

Noise sources and their effects

When an individual is exposed at work or at home to harmful sounds – those that are too loud or ongoing – sensitive structures of the inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL is characterized by a gradual, progressive loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity over time as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels.

In addition, certain loud noises can also impact us emotionally. Sudden sounds are an urgent wake-up call that alert and activate the stress response – a biological alarm that affects the brain in powerful ways, and often leads to unexpected stress and aggression. Excess noise can cause the production of stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol continuously circulating in the body, which can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

According to the Hear the World survey, the top five noise sources causing the most annoyance were:

  • People listening to music without earphones on a train, bus, or other closed environments
  • Construction sites and work
  • People using their cellular phones on a train, bus, or other closed environments
  • Animals (barking dogs, etc)
  • Street noise (cars, motorcycles, trucks, etc)

To learn more about the decibel levels of everyday sounds and to find out how loud is too loud, please click here.

Taking a stand against hearing loss

As the world becomes a noisier place, hearing loss has become a concern for all ages. In fact, 65 percent of hearing loss cases affects those under the age of 65, with more than 6 million people affected between the ages of 18 to 44.

Often neglected due to the stigma associated with the condition, hearing loss can create social and emotional barriers for the individuals living with it, or the families of those it affects. Research shows that when left untreated, hearing loss can lead to reduced earning power, disruptions in family life and can cause a wide range of other psychological problems.

“The findings of the Hear the World survey emphasize a very important issue – which is that with today’s noisy environment, everyone needs to be proactive about preventing and/or managing their hearing loss,” said Valentin Chapero, CEO of Phonak. “The first step is to speak with your local hearing health professional about an annual hearing screening and how to protect yourself against excessive noise around you.”