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Could this be why Male infertility is on the rise?

A new study has found that an unusual environmental factor possibly contributes to male infertility worldwide. This is exposure to noisy environment especially at night. According to the researchers, sleeping in a noisy environment could reduce the man’s chances of becoming a father.

The study was published in the June, 2017 Environmental pollution journal.

This is the first study that will show that prolonged exposure to noise at night may contribute to infertility in men.  To determine the relationship between noise and infertility in this study, the researchers in South Korea analysed the data of 206,492 men out of which 3,293 had a diagnosis of infertility.

Infertility is a worldwide problem affecting one out of every six couples.  In Nigeria, inability to conceive is due to male problems half of the time.

What are the common causes of male infertility? One review found that the common reasons for male infertility in Nigeria are:

  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Air pollution
  • Toxic metals such as Lead and Cadmium
  • Pesticides
  • Lifestyle factors such as age, consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates, excessive weight
  • Cigarette smoking and alcohol

Now, this study has identified another possible source of infertility in men-NOISE!

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise levels should be below 55 decibels (about the noise of a refrigerator) at night.

What are the probable sources of high noise levels in our environment? According to experts these include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Toilet flushing
  • Alarm clock
  • Food processor/blender
  • City traffic
  • Generator
  • Industries
  • Loud parties, bars, restaurants
  • Mobile phone ear pieces


Worldwide, Guangzhou (China) and Zurich (Switzerland) had the most and least noise pollution respectively according to a  recent study .   Since power outage and heat are common problems in Sub-Saharan African countries, the likelihood of long term exposure to generators and air-conditioners in men may be very high. Other common sources include traffic, construction activities, media, bars and restaurants.

Large studies have showed that regular exposure to loud noise has been linked to several health problems in the past such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Heart diseases
  • Poor mental health
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Attention and concentration
  • Noise also interferes with children’s learning abilities, and daily activities at


Although it is impossible to eliminate noise, you can reduce noise pollution by:

  • Turning of all household appliances when not in use
  • Wearing earplugs-this turns the noise into soft, background hum
  • Turning down the volume of devices to the barest minimum
  • Informing the environmental protection agencies

In recent times, innovative noise reduction methods such as anti-noise devices (which cancels out noise) and quiet curtains (noise absorbing materials) have been developed. However, these are not readily available.

With most young men exposed to noise from the environment and noise from the frequent  use of mobile phones, headphones and other personal devices, could this be the reason infertility appears to be on the rise?

According to a statement by the lead author, Dr Min ‘’One of the biggest problems the world is facing today is environmental pollution…If this trend continues, humans in the future will not be able to have normal pregnancy and child birth. If you are a man and suffer from infertility, you need to consider exposure to environmental pollution as a risk factor.’’

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Uadia PO, Emokpae AM. Male Infertility in Nigeria: A neglected reproductive health issue requiring attention. Journal of Basic and Clinical Reproductive Sciences. 2015. 4:2.

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