What is Vibroacoustic Disease?

Vibroacoustic disease is a medical condition manifested in those who have had long-term exposure (more than ten years) to large pressure amplitude (more than 90 dB) and low-frequency noise (LFN) less than 500 Hz. (source) This disease can affect the whole body, including your hearing. Thickened heart tissue is the primary symptom of VAD which can lead to arrhythmias and death in extreme cases. Other symptoms of this disease include depression, increased irritability, aggressiveness, a tendency for isolation, and decreased cognitive skills.

Occupations at high risk for VAD include:

  • aircraft technicians
  • DJs
  • commercial & military pilots
  • machinists
  • restaurant workers

In addition, sources of low-frequency noise that place people at risk for developing vibroacoustic disease include:

  • rock concerts
  • dance clubs
  • “powerful” audio equipment
  • water jet skies
  • motorcycles

Three Stages of Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD)

Depending upon the amount of exposure to low-frequency noise, the symptoms of VAD occur in three stages:

  • Stage 1 (mild). The signs in this stage occur between one to four years of exposure to low-frequency noise. Slight mood swings, indigestion, heartburn, and mouth and throat infections are frequent. (source)
  • Stage 2 (moderate). The moderate stage of VAD typically begins between four to ten years of exposure. Chest pain, mood swings, back pain, fatigue, fungal infections, viral infections, inflammation of the stomach lining, blood in urine, conjunctivitis, and allergies. (source)
  • Stage 3 (severe). Severe symptoms define VAD when a person has more than ten years of exposure to low-frequency noise. Psychiatric disturbances, nasal hemorrhaging, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, duodenal ulcers, spastic colitis, decrease in visual acuity, headaches, severe joint pain, muscular pain, neurological disturbances, epilepsy, balance disorders, stroke, and heart attack. (source)

How is Vibroacoustic Disease Diagnosed?

An echocardiogram can give a preliminary diagnosis of VAD, which can be scheduled through your primary care doctor. The echocardiogram visualizes the thickening of the cardiac structures, primarily the pericardium and the heart valves. This imaging may show thickened carotid arteries and abnormal cerebral blood flow. Blood tests can provide information on blood coagulation parameters, which tend to be unusual in VAD patients. Finally, an audiogram can measure an individual’s hearing loss at specific frequencies.

What You Should Know

Although most employers require hearing protection for workers who expose themselves to high noise levels, few are aware of the long-term effects of exposure to low-frequency noise. More studies are being done in order to bring attention to the harmful effects of low-frequency noise. If you expose yourself to low-frequency noise regularly, consider scheduling a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional.

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If you’d like to speak with one of our experienced hearing care professionals about hearing protection or get your hearing checked, we would be happy to help. Please contact us via our website in order to schedule an appointment.

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