Noise and Your Health

Exposure to noise can negatively impact your health. Often people think of hearing damage when considering potential health risks due to noise. However, many non-hearing effects, such as annoyance, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease might also occur.

On February 24, 2017 the Washington state Department of Health submitted comments on the Environmental Impact Statement for EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The comments focused on the non-hearing health impacts of noise from military aircraft.

Letter with comments sent to the Navy; DOH literature summary begins on page 6.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the biggest takeaway after looking at noise studies currently available?

Noise levels similar to those reported from the NAS Whidbey Island Complex pose a threat to public health. There is a need for more studies so we have an even better understanding of the health effects.

What kinds of studies have been published about noise and health?

There are a lot of existing studies about noise in relationship to health effects – aircraft noise and health, traffic noise and health, and industrial noise and health, but there is very little information available specifically about the effects of military aircraft noise.

What specific non-hearing health effects may be caused by noise?

There is increasing evidence that noise from environmental sources like commercial aircraft is associated with annoyance, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, and adverse cardiovascular outcomes. These are the effects that have been studied the most, but other effects are also being studied.

Who is most likely at increased risk for these non-hearing health effects?

There is concern that smokers, children, the elderly, shift-workers, and people with sleep disorders, mental disorders and physical illnesses are at greater risk to noise exposures. Children are a group we are particularly concerned about because early damage could affect development and lead to lifelong consequences.

How did you conduct the summary of noise and health?

We gathered and evaluated recent peer-reviewed articles that reviewed studies of noise and health, with a focus on studies of noise from aircrafts. We also compared the noise levels from the health studies with reports about noise levels on Whidbey Island.