LONDON — What's bad for your ears may also be bad for your heart. According to a new study, people who work in noisy places for at least a year and a half could have triple the risk of a serious heart problem compared to those who work in quiet environments, a new study says.
Gan Wenqi of the University of British Columbia examined more than 6,000 people who were at least 20 years old and employed, in a U.S. health survey from 1999 to 2004.
Most of the study participants working in loud workplaces were men aged 40 and were more likely to have other heart risk factors like having a higher than normal Body Mass Index and smoking. After statistically adjusting for those variables, Gan still found people working in loud places had a higher chance of heart disease.
Participants were asked to rate how noisy their workplace was and how long they were exposed to it. A workplace was classified as noisy if people had to raise their voices to have a conversation.
Gan found people who worked in loud environments for at least one year and a half years were two to three times more likely to have problems including a heart attack and severe chest pain.
The study was paid for by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and others. It was published online Wednesday in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a specialist journal of the BMJ.
In the U.S., more than 22 million people work in environments with a hazardous noise level. Some previous studies have already identified noise as a possible warning signal for heart problems.
"Constant noise could evolve into a trigger for a heart event," said Martin Halle, a professor at the University of Munich who is also part of an initiative to promote healthy workplaces for the European Society of Cardiology.
People working in loud places might have a higher level of stress hormones, which could then cause a plaque rupture leading to a heart attack, Halle said. He was not linked to Gan's study.
While Halle said noise should be considered as an additional heart risk factor, he said other variables were more critical. "You could change your workplace...if it's too noisy," he said. "But it's more important to stop smoking."
(This version CORRECTS Recasts the lede and corrects in paragraph 5 that the increased risk is for people who worked in a noisy place for at least 1.5 years, not nine months.)