Noise annoys, it can lead to dementia too

Delhi: 9 Sep, 2021 (Times of India)


NEW DELHI: Prolonged exposure to noise caused by road and rail traffic adds to the risk of developing dementia, a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests.

Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases affecting memory, other cognitive abilities and behaviour that interfere significantly with a person’s ability to maintain their activities of daily living.

The study needs to be taken seriously, especially in a city like Delhi, which has the highest number of vehicles in India and suffers from every possible form of pollution. Authorities must find ways and means to reduce noise pollution.

The BMJ study found that a 10-year average exposure to road traffic and railway noise was associated with a higher risk of dementia. It is based on an analysis of long-term exposure to noise from the two sources among the two million adults aged over 60 and living in Denmark between 2004 and 2017 and the identification of new cases of dementia in the country during the period.

India has witnessed rapid urbanisation over the past decade. Doctors say the findings should prompt authorities to plan ways to reduce exposure to noise pollution.
According to Dr Ravi Meher, professor of ENT at Maulana Azad Institute of Medical Sciences, there are such previous reports but this one is a large study that is going to stimulate medical professionals to further work on it. “And obviously this study again emphasises on the adverse effect of noise on human health. The National Green Tribunal and government should take note of it and plan ways to decrease noise exposure,” he said.

Dr Kameshwar Prasad, former head of neurology at AIIMS, who is currently the head of Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, said noise pollution was known to be associated with coronary artery disease and diabetes. “The findings of this study are important, though it requires confirmation in population-based large size studies. If confirmed, this can be a potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia,” he stated.

Possible explanations for an effect of noise on health include release of stress hormones and sleep disturbance, the BMJ study states.

“Fifteen years ago, we used to see one or two cases in a month. Now, we see one new case in a week. One of the reasons behind this could be increased awareness and availability of diagnostic facilities. But, it is a fact that the prevalence of the disease has also increased significantly over the years,” Dr Praveen Gupta, director of neurology division at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, said.

He added that the Danish study linking noise pollution to the risk of development of dementia was an eye-opener though it does not establish a cause and effect relationship. “We cannot wait for the evidence. Noise pollution is a modifiable risk factor which is also associated with hearing-related complications and therefore focus needs to be on reducing the exposure,” Dr Gupta said.