Health and Wellness

The Health Risks of a Noisy Commute

That noisy ride to and from work on a commuter train may be more than annoying. It could be detrimental to your health, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. And trains aren’t the only problem. While most sounds you hear while walking, cycling, driving, or taking transit fall within safe levels, sudden bursts of sound can cause long-term hearing loss and other health problems.

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Using measuring devices attached to their collars, researchers collected noise data in the city on weekdays while riding subways, buses, bikes, or while walking. They found that recommended limits on noise exposure were exceeded in 9 percent of subway measurements, 12 percent of bus measurements, and 14 percent of biking measurements. “We are now starting to understand that chronic excessive noise exposure leads to significant systemic pathology, such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of chronic disease, and increased accident risk,” said lead researcher Dr. Vincent Lin.

OSHA agrees that loud noise can create physical and psychological stress, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries because it’s difficult to hear warning signals. Notes OSHA on its occupational noise exposure web page, “The effects of noise-induced hearing loss can be profound, limiting your ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and seriously impairing your ability to communicate.” About four million employees go to work each day in damaging noise, and 10 million people in the U.S. have a noise-related hearing loss.