Study found a close link between urban noise pollution and hearing loss. High-decibel urban areas – such as Guangzhou, New Delhi, Cairo and Istanbul – topped the list of cities where hearing was most degraded, researchers reported.
Cities least afflicted by noise pollution includes Zurich, Vienna, Oslo and Munich and also registered the lowest levels of decline in hearing.
This statistical link does not necessarily mean the constant noise of city life is the main driver of hearing loss, which can also be caused by infections, genetic disorders, premature birth, and even some medicines.
The findings are also primary, and have yet to be submitted for peer-reviewed publication.
“But this is a robust result,” said Henrik Matthies, managing director of Mimi Hearing Technologies, a German company that has amassed data on 200,000 people drawn from a hearing test administered via cell phones.
“The fact that noise pollution and hearing loss have such a tight correlation points to an intricate relationship,” he said. Researchers at Mimi and Charite University Hospital in Berlin explored the link by constructing two separate databases.
The first combined information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Norwegian-based technology research group SINTEF to create a noise pollution ranking for cities around the world.
Paris – one of the most densely populated major cities in Europe – scored as the third most cacophonous.
On 3rd March, Friday, World Hearing Day, the WHO released figures showing annual costs of unaddressed hearing loss of between $750 billion and $790 billion globally.
Direct health care costs were calculated to be up to $107 billion, with loss of productivity due to unemployment or early retirement about the same.
“Societal costs” – stemming from social isolation, inability to communicate and stigma – were estimated at more than $500 billion.
In a recent editorial, the medical journal The Lancet said hearing loss is a “silent epidemic”, noting that proper care remains out of reach for millions of people.
Mimi Hearing Technologies develops music applications that adjust to the individual hearing deficiencies of listeners.