Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague

Lisa Goines, RN; Louis Hagler, MD


South Med J. 2007;100(3):287-294. 

In This Article

Groups Vulnerable to the Effects of Noise Pollution

Vulnerable groups, generally underrepresented in study populations, include patients with various diseases, patients in hospitals or those who are rehabilitating from injury or disease, the blind, the hearing impaired, fetuses, infants and young children, and the elderly. Although anyone might be adversely affected by noise pollution, groups that are particularly vulnerable include neonates, infants, children, those with mental or physical illnesses, and the elderly. Because children are particularly vulnerable to noise induced abnormalities, they need special protection.[5,19] This vulnerability to noise may be an age-related sensitivity but may be also be due to increased risk based on behavior (personal music systems, loud concerts) or to an inability of the very young to remove themselves from a noxious source.[5] The evidence is strong enough to warrant monitoring programs in schools and elsewhere to protect children from noise exposure.[1,5,19]

The effects of noise on the fetus and newborn are unclear. Exposure to noise during pregnancy may increase the risk of high-frequency hearing loss in the newborn, shortened gestation, prematurity, and intrauterine growth retardation.[5,19,20,45,46] Noise in the NICU may cause cochlear damage and may impair the growth and development of the premature infant.[24] Even though studies have been inconsistent with respect to noise and congenital malformations, the data were sufficiently compelling for the National Research Council to recommend that pregnant women avoid noisy work settings.[18]


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