Monkey's subjected to the ordinary sounds of a workman's day -- beginning with the alarm clock in the morning, through the jackhammers and diesel generators of the work place, to television late at night, quickly develop very high blood pressure, researchers reported yesterday in Science magazine.
The research proves for the first time that ordinary noise levels can cause serious physical damage besides hearing impairment, the researchers at the University of Miami said, and the noise can do so without first damaging hearing.
Similar results have been achieved in a second experiment at Miami with two or monkeys. But the full program of research, designed to determine what physical damage normal noise levels can cause, is very likely to end prematurely. The Reagan administration budget calls for killing the noise abatement program of the Environmental Protection Agency, the group that has funded the research.
The monkey's listened to the sounds in an ordinary worker's life for about nine months. They suffered no hearing loss, but did experience an average leap of 27 percent in blood pressure rates. When the noises stopped and the experiment was over the high blood pressure rates continued for at least a month, and may be permanent.
"We were trying to imitate as closely as possible the actual level and quality of sounds in the life of a person who works in industry," said the chief researcher on the project, Dr. Ernest Peterson of the University of Miami. The noises used on the monkeys were tape-recorded from life and the noise levels adjusted to be accurate representations of what an industrial worker would actually hear day and night.
During the first half-hour of the monkey's day, it heard sounds of running water, gargling, shaving, the noise of the radio playing through the sounds of a shower, and 20 minutes of the Today Show, along with other household noises.
Morning and evening rush hours were simulated with a dozen different kinds of car engines and other traffic sounds. The loudest sounds came during working hours, when diesel generator sounds and other machinery noises were mixed. At monkey lunch time there were cafeteria noises. Even at night, when the monkey's were asleep, air-conditioner sounds and a few distant motorcycle noises were played.