Published: January 24, 2006
The New York Times, Haelth, Vital Signs
Longtime exposure to loud noise may increase the risk of developing a benign nerve tumor called an acoustic neuroma, Swedish research suggests.
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The tumor, which grows inside the skull, can cause constant ringing in the ears, affect balance and result in deafness. It occurs mainly in people over 50.
The findings, published online in The American Journal of Epidemiology, will appear in the Feb. 15 print edition.
The researchers studied a population of 3.9 million people covered by Swedish tumor registries and interviewed 146 people with acoustic neuromas. They were compared with a randomly selected control group of 564 people who did not have the tumors. The participants discussed their lifetime exposure to noise exceeding 80 decibels, about the noise level of city traffic.
In general, the longer people were exposed to loud noises the more likely they were to develop acoustic neuroma.
Compared with those exposed to little noise, people steadily facing construction noise were 1.7 times as likely to have a tumor, and those exposed to screaming children, sports events and noise in restaurants and bars were 1.4 times as likely to be affected.
But exposure to loud music presented the greatest risk. People who regularly listened to loud music, including those in the music industry, were more than twice as likely as others to have the tumors.
Colin G. Edwards, a doctoral student at Ohio State University and the lead author of the paper on the findings, pointed out that the data depend on the participants' own reports and that people with tumors may, in an effort to find a cause for the problem, make errors in recollections of past activities.
"Our study," he concluded, "is not proof that loud noise causes acoustic neuroma, but it suggests a possible link. The results need to be confirmed in other studies."