People living close to wind farms may be a risk of severe hearing damage or even deafness, new research into the danger posed by low frequency noise has warned.
The study found that the physical composition of inner ear was “drastically” altered following exposure to low frequencies, which are emitted by wind turbines.
The research could explain some of the symptom reported by those living beside the masts, such as sleep disturbance, hearing problems and high blood pressure.
The results will delight critics of wind farms in the Westcountry, where the proliferation of the devices has raised concerns for the health of people living nearby.
The Royal Society has published the findings, by scientists from the University of Munich, in the new journal Open Science.
Researchers exposed 21 healthy men and women aged between 18 and 28 years to low frequency sound.
They detected changes in the type of sound being emitted from the inner ear of 17 of the participants.
Changes were detected in the cochlear, a spiral shaped cavity which essential for hearing and balance.
Dr Marcus Drexl, one of the authors of the report, said: “We explored a very curious phenomenon of the human ear: the faint sounds which a healthy human ear constantly emits..
“These are like a very faint constant whistling that comes out of your ear as a by-product of the hearing process. We used these as an indication of how processes in the inner ear change.”
The research team measured these naturally emitted sounds before and after exposure to 90 seconds of low frequency sound.
“Usually the sound emitted from the ear stays at the same frequency,” he said. “But the interesting thing was that after exposure, these sounds changed very drastically.
“They started to oscillate slowly over a couple of minutes. This can be interpreted as a change of the mechanisms in the inner ear, produced by the low frequency sounds.
“This could be a first indication that damage might be done to the inner ear.
“We don’t know what happens if you are exposed for longer periods of time, [for example] if you live next to a wind turbine and listen to these sounds for months of years.”
Wind turbines emit a spectrum of frequencies of noise, which include the low frequency that was used in the research, Dr Drexl explained.
He said the study “might help to explain some of the symptoms that people who live near wind turbines report, such as sleep disturbance, hearing problems and high blood pressure”.
Dr Drexl explained how the low frequency noise is not perceived as being “intense or disturbing” simply because most of the time humans cannot hear it.
“The lower the frequency the you less you can hear it, and if it is very low you can’t hear it at all.
“People think if you can’t hear it then it is not a problem. But it is entering your inner ear even though it is not entering your consciousness.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding