by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Many health experts and health educators warn the public not to believe everything they read on the internet unless it comes from a reliable source, e.g., the Centers for Disease Control, the American Heart Association, etc. Even then, respected agencies make mistakes. The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, for examples, still states, “[l]ong or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss,” without time limit for exposure, but the 85 decibel limit is actually from the occupational standard and doesn’t protect all workers from hearing loss. It is not a safe noise level for the public. The only evidence-based safe noise limit to prevent hearing loss is a time-weighted average of 70 decibels for 24 hours.
That said, one must be especially careful about information from the alternative health literature. A lot of claims are made that are just not supported by science. This report from the Alternative Daily is one of them. The headline states that six nutrients are scientifically proven to boost hearing, which implies that taking these nutrients will improve hearing. But the studies cited merely are correlation or association studies, showing, for example, that people with hearing loss had lower folate levels. This does not demonstrate that insufficient folate intake causes hearing loss. This certainly doesn’t show that taking supplemental folate, or eating a healthier diet with foods containing folate, will improve hearing.
There are many different causes of hearing loss–ototoxic drugs, ear infections, trauma–and associations with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes and bad health habits such as smoking or poor quality diet, but noise is the most common cause of hearing loss.
So what’s the sensible way to protect yourself and your family from hearing loss and other hearing injuries? The answer is revealed by this one fact: noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. So throw away the pills and miracle cures and avoid loud noise to protect your hearing.
Remember: if it sounds too loud, it IS too loud!
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.