The majority of people don’t realize that the sounds around them could be damaging their hearing. A noisy bar, a loud concert or movie theater–these situations often leave us with temporary ringing in the ears or muffled hearing. But how many people are aware that these are signs of permanent hearing damage?
Hearing loss, unlike other injuries, can occur without causing pain or obvious symptoms, and for this reason it is an insidious health risk. According to David Sykes of the Acoustic Research Council, “It’s a survival mechanism. Your body isn’t designed to turn off your hearing or to always know when its hearing mechanism is being damaged. The most dangerous thing is when you’re exposed, but you don’t feel pain because of the exposure.”
A Public Health Risk
High noise levels, especially in cities, have long been known to contribute to problems such as hearing loss. But researchers are now linking noise pollution to other conditions as well, such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
This growing awareness of the dangers of noise has fueled a desire among health experts and researchers to see noise pollution defined as a serious public health issue. As it is currently viewed as more of a nuisance than a hazard, experts are pushing for a formal recognition by federal and local governments of the dangers of noise, and would like to see much more stringent noise regulation in cities.
The Quiet Coalition
A new program of the nonprofit organization Quiet Communities, The Quiet Coalition is made up of science, health and legal professionals who are concerned about noise-pollution and its effects. They are examining the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. The coalition draws on current medical and scientific evidence that noise is harmful, in the hope of creating a quieter, more livable world.
Jamie Banks, program director for The Quiet Coalition and executive director of Quiet Communities, says: “Noise has been explained away in a lot of different places as an ‘annoyance’ or a ‘nuisance’. These words trivialize the problem in the mind of the public. We are bringing the evidence-based scientific perspective to frame it as a public health and environmental problem.”
Dangerous Volume Levels
America is a loud place, and there is little pressure currently to keep things quiet. As the Environmental Protection Agency lost its funding to control noise over 30 years ago, there is little to no federal regulation of noise. This means the manufacturers of planes, trains, cars, and construction equipment, as well as the creators of toys, cinemas and restaurants can design without safe volume limits in mind.
Though the sound level above which damage can occur is widely recognized as 85 dB (decibels), the sound threshold for damage is actually lower. If someone is exposed for a 24-hour period, the EPA recommends a decibel limit of just 55 dB. The average dishwasher or washing machine is 70.
Noise in Cities
From gas-powered leaf blowers to restaurants and bars blasting loud music, cities are getting louder. But the full effects of noise pollution on hearing loss are becoming better understood. A recent article in The Hearing Journal notes that: “hearing loss has long been thought to be an unpleasant but inevitable side effect of aging.” But, the article continues, “within the past year, two reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have documented the startling degree to which noise—both in the workplace and elsewhere in our daily lives—contributes to hearing damage.”
Erica Walker, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, had two years of her life ruined by noise, when she lived below a family whose kids thundered from 6 a.m. to midnight every day. She began to suffer from insomnia and complained to both her landlord and the city, but nothing could be done to improve the situation. Now she dedicates herself full-time to raising awareness of noise in neighborhoods, and holding cities accountable. She recently completed the 2016 Greater Boston Noise Report where she mapped noise levels in Boston neighborhoods and issued report cards. Check out her helpful and informative website devoted to real-time noise monitoring, Noise and the City. Erika hopes this tool will be replicated throughout the country and used to help keep noise levels down.
Your Hearing Health
Are you concerned about noise pollution and your hearing health? Contact us today at Preferred Hearing for a hearing test and consultation. [/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 15px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_callout title=”Interested in learning more?” message=”For more information on hearing aids and the latest in hearing technology, contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers.” type=”center” button_text=”Contact Us” circle=”false” button_icon=”lightbulb-o” href=”/contact” href_title=”” target=””][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]