SEOUL, South Korea — Noisy settings have been linked to a plethora of health problems, including pregnancy complications for women — such as premature birth and congenital malformations. Now a new study finds that too much noise at night can increase a man’s odds of suffering from infertility.
“Infertility is becoming a significant public health issue because of unexpected adverse effects on the health and quality of life and heavy expenditures on the health system,” says study co-author Dr. Jin-Young Min of Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea. “We know noise exposure has an effect on male fertility in animals, but our study is the first to show the risk of exposure to environmental noise on male infertility in humans.”
Min and his team use data from a health insurance study of more than 206,000 men between the ages of 20 and 59. The team used the participants’ postal codes and the National Noise Information System to calculate their level of noise exposure between 2006 and 2013. About 1.6 percent — or nearly 3,300 participants — were diagnosed with infertility during the tracking period.
The researchers took into consideration health factors such as tobacco use and body mass index, along with demographic data to conclude that participants who were exposed to at least 55 dB of noise, comparable to an air conditioner or a suburban street, were significantly more at risk for being infertile than others. The effect was particularly detrimental for men when it occurred during the nighttime hours over the long term, which was found to be about four years for the study.
“One of the biggest problems the world is facing today is environmental pollution; my special concern is what Theo Colborn described in her book Our Stolen Future: that the rapid decline in men’s sperm counts in the 20th century was due to environmental pollution,” says Min. “If this trend continues, humans in the future will not be able to have normal pregnancy and childbirth. If you are a man and suffer from infertility, you need to consider exposure to environmental pollution as a risk factor.”
The study’s findings were published in the July 2017 edition of the journal Environmental Pollution.