Turn Down the Volume: The Surprising Health Perks of a Quieter Life

Do you ever feel like the world is getting louder? Well, it turns out you’re not just imagining it. Studies show that our increasingly noisy world is threatening our well-being in alarming ways. In fact, the volume control on your iPod or MP3 player, as well as traffic outside your window, has been linked to increased blood pressure, heightened risk of heart attack or stroke, tumor formation, insomnia, impaired work performance, raised stress levels, and hearing loss.

Noise-related health risks

Every time researchers investigate the health effects of noise, they discover new and concerning consequences. For instance, a study from Imperial College London found that noises louder than 35 decibels, which is actually pretty quiet, can increase our blood pressure. The average conversation is around 60 decibels. Surprisingly, this hypertensive threat occurs even if the noise does not wake the sleeper.

Further research has shown that the louder the noise, the larger the increase in blood pressure. Moreover, people who live for at least five years near busy airports also have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

Hearing loss risks

Today’s epidemic of noise exposure might be even more worrying when it comes to the risk of hearing loss. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that nine out of 10 city dwellers may experience enough noise exposure to damage their hearing. What’s especially concerning is that the majority of this exposure is self-inflicted as people listen to their iPods, MP3 players, and stereos on high volumes.

Noise and strokes

Noise is also linked to a heightened risk of stroke. A study in the European Heart Journal found that for those over the age of 65, every increase of 10 decibels in daily traffic noise raises their stroke risk by an alarming 27 percent. Traffic noise has been linked to a range of cardiovascular diseases, adding to the evidence that noise can affect our physical health.

Tumors in the ear

Long term exposure to loud music can also increase the risk of developing tumors in your ears that cause hearing loss. While these tumors are not cancerous, they can press on the cranial nerve responsible for sensing sound and impede nerves that help with balance. People employed in the music industry face an even greater risk – their chances of developing these tumors are 2.25 times higher.

Other health problems linked to noise

Research has also shown that noise can lead to:

  • Insomnia: Noise-related hearing loss increases the risk of sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness.
  • Impaired work performance: Nighttime traffic noise can affect muscle and nerve function the following morning.
  • Permanent hearing loss: Thirty million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels daily.

How to protect yourself from noise

Although it might be easier said than done in our bustling world, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from noise:

  1. Turn down the volume on your portable music player and stereo.
  2. Wear earplugs in noisy places like the subway or in heavy traffic.
  3. Take supplements of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium to protect your hearing (lab tests at the University of Florida have found that these supplements can prevent temporary and permanent hearing loss).

While wearing ear protection is always the best option, these supplements can provide an additional layer of protection for people who can’t or don’t wear hearing protection.

In conclusion, if you don’t want to be a victim of noise, preventative precautions against a loud world are your best bet. Antioxidant supplements and keeping your music at a manageable level can not only preserve your hearing but also support the health of your heart and the rest of your body.