A recent study might change the way we view work-related risks and high blood pressure. The researchers have demonstrated that chronic exposure to noise can be a risk factor for hypertension.
There have been several prior studies on this topic, but this is the first to provide robust evidence for noise exposure being linked to high blood pressure.
Noise Exposure and High Blood Pressure
Heart disease and high blood pressure are some of the most common medical conditions in the United States. Since high blood pressure has become so prevalent, researchers are more motivated than ever to understand the causes behind hypertension.
There have been earlier attempts to correlate noise exposure and high blood pressure, but those studies have been inconclusive. The researchers behind this new study theorized that this was because calculating the total noise exposure over time is incredibly difficult.
They altered their study to use hearing loss as a biological marker for noise exposure. They focussed their study closely on the types of hearing loss commonly associated with high, workplace noise exposure.
The researchers had access to a database of over 20,000 workers that spanned nearly four decades. These workers had all sustained work-related hearing loss and were from the Sichuan Province in China.
What the Research Says
Unsurprisingly, workers were at a higher risk for hearing loss the more years they had been working in environments with high noise exposure.
The study found some shocking results. While workers with mild hearing loss from noise exposure had a 34% higher risk of hypertension, workers with more severe hearing loss were at a 281% higher risk for high blood pressure. This suggests not only a positive relationship between hearing loss and hypertension, but that individuals with more severe hearing loss could have a much more dangerous risk.
The researchers also found that this risk had the same impact on workers regardless of gender. They also found that while the impact was the same, men experience it at a higher rate. They theorized that this might be due to men being exposed to higher, and more frequent, levels of noise.
What’s Next for the Study
The extremely large sample size and robust dataset lend credibility to the researcher’s findings. So does their in-depth research methods. However, there are a few areas where new research is still needed before sturdy conclusions can be reached.
The researchers were unable to visit and monitor the job sites where the datasets were gathered which limits the viability of the data. They were also unable to track participants medical conditions. This means that other factors such as smoking, drinking, and family health might play a larger role. Future work is also needed to test noise exposure across economic lines. Factory workers are subject to a variety of conditions that more economically secure individuals are not.
Although this study found a positive relationship between noise exposure and hypertension, other studies have not. This only means that more work is required before concrete answers can be determined.