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Page Four of an eleven-page article:
Noise: A Health Problem
United States Environmental Protection Agency

The Body's Other Reactions

"Loud noises once in a while probably cause no harm. But chronic noise situations must be pathological. Constant exposure to noise is negative to your health."
Dr. Gerd Jansen, Ruhr University

In readiness for dangerous and harmful situations, our bodies make automatic and unconscious responses to sudden or loud sounds. Of course, most noise in our modern society does not signify such danger. However, our bodies still react as if these sounds were always a threat or warning.

In effect, the body shifts gears. Blood pressure rises, heart rate and breathing speed up, muscles tense, hormones are released into the bloodstream, and perspiration appears. These changes occur even during sleep.

The idea that people get used to noise is a myth. Even when we think we have become accustomed to noise, biological changes still take place inside us, preparing us for physical activity if necessary.

Noise does not have to be loud to bring on these responses. Noise below the levels usually associated with hearing damage can cause regular and predictable changes in the body.

What happens to the human body when confronted with ever-present noise? In a world where steady bombardment of noise is the rule rather than the exception, the cumulative effects of noise on our bodies may be quite extensive. It may be that our bodies are kept in a near-constant condition of agitation. Researchers debate whether the body's automatic responses build on each other, leading to what are called the "diseases of adaptation." These diseases of stress include ulcers, asthma, high blood pressure, headaches, and colitis.

In studies dating back to the 1930s, researchers noted that noise developed marked digestive changes which were thought to lead to ulcers. Cases of ulcers in certain noisy industries have been found to be up to five times as numerous as what normally would be expected.

Similar research has identified more clearly the contribution of noise to other physical disorders. A five-year study of two manufacturing firms in the United States found that workers in noisy plant areas showed greater numbers of diagnosed medical problems, including respiratory ailments, than did workers in quieter areas of the plants.

From a study done with animals, researchers concluded that noise may be a risk factor in lowering people's resistance to disease and infection.

To prevent aggravation of existing disease, doctors and health researchers agree that there is an absolute requirement for rest and relaxation at regular intervals to maintain adequate mental and physical health. Constant exposure to stress from noise frustrates this requirement. In doing so, it has a potentially harmful effect on our health and well-being.

Noise can cause regular and predictable stress in the human body

People do not get used to noise - the body continues to react

Noise may aggravate existing disease

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