MGH Study Finds Link Between Noise Exposure, Health Issues

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — If you live surrounded by noise, a new study says your life could be shortened.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have found a link between long-term noise exposure and heart disease, inflammation, and stroke.

WBZ NewsRadio's Laurie Kirby spoke with the study's lead author, MGH Dr. Michael Osborne.

MGH studied nearly 500 adults, mostly from around Massachusetts, for five years.

"We used a U.S. government tool to model transportation noise exposure, which is an average 24-hour sound level, at each individual's home address," Dr. Osborne said. "This sound level was more or less a composite of traffic and aircraft noise that individuals are exposed to."

They found that noise is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, especially for those with other risk factors.

It all comes down to the Amygdala—the part of the brain that processes emotions and fight-or-flight instinct. Low-flying flights, the sound of constant subways, or just constant traffic can activate this part of the brain, which is connected to bone marrow through the nervous system.

"This study provided some insights into the potential mechanism by which noise causes cardiovascular disease, and through that, we get some ideas about how to potentially prevent the development of disease as a consequence of noise exposure," Dr. Osborne said.

While it makes logical sense that prolonged noise exposure may be unhealthy, the MGH researchers said it had never really been pinpointed before.

They say these findings emphasize patients' need to be aware of the effect noise can have on one's health.

"They need to at least be aware of it, and mindful of the fact that noise itself may be unhealthy to them, and that where they live may actually have some factor in their health outcome," Dr. Osborne said.

Researchers next plan to study the link between noise and obesity and diabetes.

WBZ NewsRadio's Laurie Kirby (@LaurieWBZ) reports

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