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Study links on-the-job noise exposure to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol

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Cincinnati — Workers exposed to loud noise on the job are at increased risk for hypertension and high cholesterol – key risk factors for heart disease – according to a recent study from NIOSH.

Using 2014 National Health Interview Survey data of nearly 23,000 workers, researchers estimated the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations. They also looked at the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

The researchers found a link between a history of noise exposure at work and a significantly elevated risk of both high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Other findings:

  • The industries with the highest prevalence of noise exposure were mining (61 percent), construction (51 percent) and manufacturing (47 percent).
  • Occupations with the highest prevalence of noise exposure were production (55 percent); construction and extraction (54 percent); and installation, maintenance and repair (54 percent).
  • Occupational noise exposure contributed to 58 percent of hearing difficulty cases, 14 percent of hypertension cases and 9 percent of elevated cholesterol cases.

“This study provides further evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the potential to prevent these conditions if noise is reduced,” Elizabeth Masterson, study lead author and NIOSH epidemiologist, said in a March 21 press release. “It is important that workers be screened regularly for these conditions in the workplace or through a health care provider so interventions can occur. As these conditions are more common among noise-exposed workers, they could especially benefit from these screenings.”

The study was published online March 14 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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