Could Wind Turbines Be Toxic To The Ear?

Audrey Carlsen — NPR.org — April 2, 2013

The U.S. is embracing wind energy, with wind turbines making up half of the new electricity added to the power grid last year. But a smattering of people who live near the turbines say they’re a nuisance — and making them ill.

Dr. Nina Pierpont, a Johns Hopkins-trained pediatrician and biologist in upstate New York, has been collecting their anecdotes for years. She coined the term wind turbine syndrome to encompass the symptoms of headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, ear pain, and difficulty sleeping that people in several states and countries have complained of — largely on the Internet. And she says she’s convinced the culprit is the low frequency noise, called infrasound, from the turbines and how it’s disturbing the delicate vestibular system of the inner ear.

The claims of the existence of wind turbine syndrome have been met with heavy skepticism from a host of experts in energy and public health since few studies aside from one self-published report from Pierpont have shown any link between the turbines and health. The World Health Organization, which classifies diseases, does not recognize wind turbine syndrome, nor does any other medical institution. And otolaryngologists, who are experts on ear health, have remained largely silent on the issue.

Until now.

A recent study by ear, nose and throat specialists in the U.K. found that infrasound can have physiological effects. The review article, published in the March issue of the Journal of Laryngology & Otology, showed that outer hair cells of the cochlea respond to infrasound, which could affect the functioning of the ear. Another study looked at how the auditory cortex of the brain can also be activated by low-frequency noise, which could produce health effects.

Dr. Amir Farboud, a senior surgical ear, nose and throat resident at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl, Wales and co-author of the review, says that he initially thought that wind turbine syndrome was “rubbish” when someone came into his office claiming to have it. But, over time, his opinion has changed. “The more you look into it, the more you realize there’s some science behind this,” he says.   Continue reading, here…..

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