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May 2014

Can Airplane Noise Hurt Your Heart?

Airplanes have transformed travel. You can now reach far-away destinations in the same day. For people living under flight paths, though, airplane noise may be harmful to the heart. Recent research suggests it may raise the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Sound proof

Two recent studies point to a possible link between airplane noise and heart health. In 1, British researchers analyzed the health records of more than 3.6 million people living near Heathrow airport. They focused on heart-related illnesses. They compared that data with noise levels in 12 surrounding neighborhoods.

What did they find? Areas with the highest levels of aircraft noise showed a higher risk for heart disease. In fact, people living in those locales were more likely to be hospitalized for coronary heart disease and stroke.

In a second study, researchers used Medicare data for more than 6 million older adults. They looked at diagnoses related to the heart. Those included heart failure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and heart disease. They then cross-referenced that data with noise levels near 89 airports in the U.S.

Like in the British study, hospitalizations for heart disease were higher for people exposed to louder airplane noise. That was true even after researchers accounted for other factors, such as age, sex, and air pollution. They suspect that noise levels higher than 55 decibels may contribute to heart-related hospital admissions. A decibel is a unit of measurement for sound.

Noise-reducing tips

Experts can’t say for sure that airplane noise hurts the heart. But it seems to be more than a nuisance, especially for those who live near an airport for a long period of time. Past research has linked aircraft noise to:

  • Higher levels of stress

  • High blood pressure

  • Sleep problems

  • Hearing loss

  • Poorer work and school performance

For many people who live near airports, moving may not be an option. But you can take steps to muffle airplane noise in your home. Consider these soundproofing tips:

  • Replace old windows. Or caulk around them. Windows are often the main point of entry for noise. When choosing new windows, pick ones with a sound transmission class (STC) of at least 40. STC tells you how well a material blocks sound.

  • Install new doors or replace weather stripping. Like windows, doors are a common source for noise.

  • Add more insulation between walls and in the attic.

  • Use putty or expanding foam to close up spaces around pipes or wires.

  • Keep windows closed during heavy flight traffic.

  • Minimize noise pollution inside. Add soft furnishings, such as curtains and carpeting, to deaden sound.

 

Even if you live in an area with lots of noise pollution, you can still keep your heart healthy. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are two important strategies. Click here for more ways to avoid heart disease. 

 

Online resources

Center for Hearing and Communication

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders