New research has uncovered a link between long-term exposure to a noisy environment and infertility in men.
Many would already agree that noise can disturb day-to-day life, making it difficult to concentrate on work and disrupting sleep.
However, more studies are now discovering the health implications of exposure to high noise levels, linking it to heart disease, mental illness, changes in social behaviour, and a reduced performance in completing complex tasks.
Previous research looking at fertility in women has also shown a link between exposure to noise and birth-related problems, such as premature birth, spontaneous abortion and congenital malformations.
Carried out by researchers from Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea, the new research looks specifically at male infertility by analyzing data from 206,492 men aged 20-59 and calculating the participants' levels of noise exposure.
During the eight-year study, which ran 2006-2013, 3,293 men had an infertility diagnosis.
The team found that, after taking into account factors such as age, income, BMI and smoking, men who were exposed to noise over 55 dB at night (a level equivalent to a suburban street or an air conditioner and above the World Health Organization night noise level) had a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed as infertile.
Infertility affects one in six couples worldwide at least once in their lifetime, either temporarily or permanently, and can be due to a variety of causes including genetic abnormalities, infectious disease, environmental agents or certain behaviours.
The researchers now believe their findings suggest that noise should also be considered when assessing environmental conditions that contribute to male 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," said Dr. Jin-Young Min, the study's co-author. "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."
"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," commented Dr. 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 results were published in the journal Environmental Pollution.