Anyone who has ever lived under a flight path will tell you that the constant din of jet engines is more than enough to raise your blood pressure.
But now researchers are warning for the first time that there may be a real health risk associated with aircraft noise.
Two studies, published today in the 'British Medical Journal', found evidence that people living in areas with high levels of noise pollution from passing aeroplanes had a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
The first study compared Civil Aviation Authority data on aircraft sound levels with hospital admissions and mortality rates for 3.6 million people living near Heathrow Airport, in areas where aircraft noise exceeded 50 decibels – the level of normal conversation in a quiet room.
Researchers from Imperial College London and King's College London found that the risks of cardiovascular disease were greater for those living in neighbourhoods with highest noise levels and closest to the airport, such as Slough and Hounslow. Around 72,000 people living in the noisiest areas had a 10pc to 20pc greater risk than people living in the quietest areas, researchers estimated.
A second investigation carried out in the US looked at heart disease among six million people living close to 89 airports. More than 2pc of hospitalisations for cardiovascular diseases could be attributed to aircraft noise, the researchers from the Harvard School for Public Health and the Boston University School of Public Health said.
Previous studies have suggested a link between a noisy environment and high blood pressure. Loud noise can lead to short-term increases in blood pressure, and sustained exposure could lead to more long-term risk. Scientists also proposed that night-time aircraft noise could be disturbing people's sleep, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
Although health leaders in the UK stopped short of confirming a causal link between aircraft noise and heart problems, the studies show a strong association, which they said should be taken into account in future plans to expand airport capacity. (© Independent News Service)