John Stewart was living in south London six years ago when two things happened that seriously affected his health. "First the flight paths were changed so planes passed over my flat every 90 seconds. Then a nearby laundry centralised all its activities into one site, so the noise of the machines permeated the whole block. They were going all day and during the night," he says.
"I had to have the radio and TV on, even if I didn't want to, just so I didn't have to hear the outside noise. My sleep became interrupted and I ended up getting heart palpitations. My doctor said my blood pressure was too high, he was very worried about my heart, and I needed to take some serious action to reduce the stress before it killed me." After Stewart moved house, he slowly got better.
There is growing evidence that noise-related stress is a significant public health hazard. According to a report from the World Health Organisation, unwanted noise is causing hearing impairment including tinnitus, disturbing our sleep and triggering stress hormones which could in turn affect the immune system and metabolism.
It also makes us feel helpless and more aggressive and increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, accounting for an estimated 3% of ischeamic heart disease (the most common cause of death in the EU) in Europe.
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