What’d You Say?
According to The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), about 50 million Americans are experiencing hearing loss, a number that has doubled between 2000 – 2015. World- wide, HHF says, the number is up 44%, which is also worrying, but, in the U.S., we’re 2¼ times worse.
We each have much control over hearing loss – albeit not easy at times
Simple answer: NOISE!
Sixty percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from hearing loss and/or tinnitus (a constant ringing/buzzing in the ears, also suffered by twenty percent of the general population, of which ninety percent also experience hearing loss.)
When I was a teenager—allow me a bit of nostalgia, please—aside from live concerts, music came from the radio with popular daily programs like Disc Jockey, Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom, and the weekly, Your Hit Parade, where live performers played and sang the seven top songs of the week, and which featured performers like, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mercer, Buddy Clark, Gisele MacKenzie, among more than four dozen others.
Both programs are in the Radio Hall of Fame today and Your Hit Parade graduated to Television in the mid-50’s.
We listened to our music at a little more than conversational sound of about 60 decibels (dB), I think. Today, our teens march around with earphones attached to listening devices at sound levels of >100dB. A typical MP3 player can be as loud as 120 decibels. At 100dB, permanent damage can occur after only 15 minutes per day. Have you ever stopped at a red light next to a car with radio blaring too loud even for you to endure. Imagine the effect on the driver.
One in five teenagers today suffers from hearing loss, according to the HHF.
In a workplace environment where the noise level is 85dB, which is the sound of a bulldozer at idle, permanent damage can occur after only one 8-hour workday of exposure.
What happened to the good old rake? Leaf blowers develop 75dB at 50 feet. If one is operated closer to you, the noise level is exponentially higher. At their source, they can be 100 – 115dB. How many operators have you observed wearing ear protection (OSHA requires it at 85dB and above. (I have given our yard workers ear protect as well as masks to wear but most refuse to wear them)
HHF says one in five adults today suffer from hearing loss.
Of course, there are other causes besides noise for the sharp increase in hearing loss in the American population: Genetics; Trauma; Medicine-induced loss; Viral infections; and an Aging population. But Noise is the real culprit over which we have some control.
For example, if your teenager has the volume on her/his MP3 so loud that surrounding sound cannot be heard, it’s too loud and there will be damage over a relatively short period of time. It is our responsibility to teach that.
Employers must provide ear protection and insist workers use it.
Avoid places you know will be too loud. I was pleased to read recently that restaurant critics are using noise level as a criterion in deciding on a restaurant’s rating (I carry a copy of a study that shows high noise levels actually negatively affect the taste of food. I often hand a copy to the manager of a noisy restaurant as I advise him that I won’t be back.)
And we’ve all been to weddings and other celebrations, like New Year’s Eve, etc., where the band plays so loud with speakers on high volume that conversation even with the person sitting next to you at a table is impossible. Many musicians seem to like to play for themselves, not the guests. Sit through a few hours of that kind of noise level, and you can go home with less hearing than when you arrived. I have been known to send committees that book that kind of “entertainment” the following You Tube video with the caption, “Guy Lombardo, where are you!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6CZKVGSb1E. Outdated? Sure, but you get the point.
Here’s a guide to some more typical noise levels. Levels of 105dB can damage your hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes each week. But lower levels, such as between 80dB and 90dB can also cause permanent damage if you’re exposed to them for hours every day.
- normal conversation: 60-65dB
- a busy street: 75-85dB
- lawn mower/heavy traffic: 85dB
- forklift truck: 90dB
- hand drill: 98dB
- heavy truck about twenty feet away: 95-100dB
- motorbikes: 100dB
- cinema: some films regularly top 100dB during big action scenes
- disco/nightclub/car horn: 110dB
- MP3 player on loud: 112dB
- chainsaw: 115-120dB
- rock concert/ambulance siren: 120dB
There are multitudes of sources of noise pollution, all of which contribute to the current epidemic of hearing loss. My purpose is to raise awareness of it and urge my readers to be careful and take measures for themselves and their loved ones, especially children. I wear ear plugs in certain situations, like traveling on an airplane.
But that’s not all. In addition to physical damage, there’s also stress and disturbing the peace because of noise, to which we should not allow ourselves to be subjected.
Relish the quiet.
PS: That 12 gauge shotgun at the top of the dB scale above could cause immediate permanent damage without ear protection at 165dB. ( I shoot but have always worn the best ear safety equipment.)
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Living Younger Longer