Minimize Noise to Protect Against Hearing Loss and Heart Stress
'Tis the beginning of the noise-pollution season, when we all spend more time in roaring traffic, deafening airports, and wall-of-sound restaurants, wondering what on earth the person next to you just said. Don't even mention snow blowers, NFL thrillers, or the siren-strength electronic game Uncle Morty thought would keep the kids quiet. Even people with healthy ears start worrying about hearing loss. (Tip: These three foods help prevent it.)
If you or someone you love has an iffy ticker, worry more about heart stress. New research has found that regular exposure to sound above 65 decibels (that's merely a loud conversation) can up the risk of a heart attack by 10%. Chronic exposure to louder noise -- from a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner, for example -- bumps heart attack risk by 20%, and constantly being around anything on par with a garbage disposal (common in many factories) increases the risk by 50%.
What's the link between loud noise and heart damage? Relentless racket activates your nervous system and increases stress levels, which throws off your heart rate, blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and blood sugar, increasing heart attack risk. (Find out who's especially vulnerable to noise stress.) Constant clatter has also been linked to cognitive impairment, sleep problems, and tinnitus (persistent ringing in your ears).
So, if silence makes only a rare golden appearance in your day-to-day life, find ways to turn down the volume. Simple $2 ear plugs can help if the noise isn't that bad. If it is, invest in ear- and heart-protecting noise-cancellation headphones. They make a huge difference. Wear 'em on airplanes, when using power tools, and possibly at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and family reunions.