Washington Post: The Spreading Effects of a Hyper-Noisy Environment

Last month, David Owen reported in The New Yorker about the mounting evidence about the damaging public-health effects of noise. As The Atlantic has reported, federal health authorities have warned with increasing urgency about hearing loss as a new epidemic and ambient noise as “the new second-hand smoke.”

Now Consumer Reports weighs in, as published in The Washington Post.

Under the headline “The negative health effects of too much noise go well beyond hearing,” the story emphasizes the surprising public health effects of ever-heightening urban and workplace noise. Samples:

Regular exposure to loud noise has been associated with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure in a number of studies, says Liz Masterson, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). One CDC study she co-wrote, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2018, found higher rates of hypertension and high cholesterol in people who were regularly exposed to loud noises at work…

The researchers concluded that as many as 14 percent of cases of hypertension and 9 percent of cases of high cholesterol were potentially a result of noise exposure — possibly because of the stress of a loud working environment.


 A 2018 World Health Organization analysis of 34 studies linked noise exposure to poorer reading comprehension, standardized test scores and long-term memory.

This connection makes sense, says Nicholas Reed, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After all, who doesn’t find it hard to concentrate on a book if someone is vacuuming in the next room?… The CDC says that as many as 12.5 percent of kids and teens ages 6 to 19 have already incurred some damage to their hearing.

But there may be issues other than distraction at play, Reed says. Scientists think noise could cause stress in children, just as it does in adults.

The evidence accumulates; thanks to Consumer Reports and the Post for continuing to direct attention to these findings.