Predictably, the particular sounds that cause problems are those that are persistent and so loud that you can't have a conversation without raising your voice. Canadian researchers just published a study demonstrating that too much noise at work can more than double the risk of heart disease. The investigators, from the School of Environmental Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, collected data on more than 6,300 people age 20 and older. All the participants had taken part in a U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination survey between 1999 and 2004, and the study team asked them about their lifestyle and occupational health, as well as providing physical exams and blood tests. Most of those who reported working in noisy surroundings were men whose average age was 40. The researchers noted that compared to study participants who worked in quiet environments, the men tended to be overweight and to smoke, both risk factors for heart disease. But even when those risks from lifestyle were taken into account, the men who worked in noisy environments were two to three times more likely to have serious heart problems than a comparable group who worked in quiet places. We'll need more studies to confirm these findings, but the researchers speculated that loud noise leads to stress, which is not good for the cardiovascular system.
My take? Earlier studies have shown that chronic noise can increase the risk of heart attack, so it isn't surprising that persistent workplace noise could raise risks for heart disease as well. We know that even low level office noise can cause stress hormone levels to increase. Many employers already take steps to shield their employees from exposure to constant loud noises, but for the sake of your health and your heart, take personal responsibility and use whatever means are necessary to protect yourself.
Learn more: Can noise make you sick?