High blood pressure and high cholesterol are more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work according to a CDC study published this month in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

The study, conducted by researchers at CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, also found that a quarter of U.S. workers—an estimated 41 million people— reported a history of noise exposure at work.

“Reducing workplace noise levels is critical not just for hearing loss prevention, it may also impact blood pressure and cholesterol,” says NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

“Worksite health and wellness programs that include screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol should also target noise-exposed workers.”

Loud Noise Linked to Heart Disease               

High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol are key risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women. Loud noise is one of the most common workplace hazards in the United States affecting about 22 million workers each year.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty, and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations.

Industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining, construction, and manufacturing.
They also looked at the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease. The analysis showed:

  • Twenty-five percent of current workers had a history of work-related noise exposure; 14% were exposed in the last year.
  • Twelve percent of current workers had hearing difficulty, 24% had high blood pressure, and 28% had high cholesterol. Of these cases 58%, 14%, and 9%, respectively, can be attributed to occupational noise exposure.
  • Industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining (61%), construction (51%), and manufacturing (47%).
  • Occupations with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were production (55%); construction and extraction (54%); and installation, maintenance, and repair (54%).

“A significant percentage of the workers we studied have hearing difficulty, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that could be attributed to noise at work,” says study co-author Liz Masterson, Ph.D.

“If noise could be reduced to safer levels in the workplace, more than 5 million cases of hearing difficulty among noise-exposed workers could potentially be prevented."