Hearing protection

Turn that down! We can prevent hearing loss

Photo credit: Anthony from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Dr. Vic Snyder, a former congressman from Arkansas who is now a medical director at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliate there, has it exactly right: hearing loss (and tinnitus) can be prevented by turning down the volume, walking away from noise sources, and using hearing protection.

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.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet

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.

New Yorker writer worries about her ears–you should be worried, too

Photo credit: Scott Robinson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

New Yorker staff writer Amanda Petrusich is worried about what noise is doing to her ears.

She’s right to be worried. We all should be worried.

As the world has gotten louder–perhaps because “everyone knows” that 85 decibels is safe because the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders tells us “long or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss”–a vast uncontrolled experiment is taking place in the U.S., with 320 million subjects.

Gregory Flamme and colleagues showed that 70% of adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan got total daily noise doses exceeding Environmental Protection safe noise levels for preventing hearing loss.

Not surprisingly, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control reported a year ago that 25% of American adults have noise-induced hearing loss, including many people without any occupational noise exposure.

Remember, if it sounds too loud, it IS too loud! If you can’t carry on a normal conversation without straining to speak or to be heard, the ambient noise is above 75 A-weighted decibels, which also happens to be the auditory injury threshold.

Your ears are like your eyes or your knees. You only have two of them. Keep them away from loud noise and they should last you your entire life.

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.

Australians are in danger of hearing loss

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the National Acoustic Laboratory at Australia’s Macquarie University found that 1 in 10 Australians used personal listening devices (PLDs) at dangerously high volumes.

Not surprisingly, those who reported using the devices at high volumes also reported more difficulty hearing things.

Only the abstract is available without a subscription, so I can’t comment on details of the study, which would be stronger if actual hearing tests had been done on the subjects, but the final line of the abstract is one that I agree with entirely:

Although PLD use alone is not placing the majority of users at risk, it may be increasing the likelihood that individuals’ cumulative noise exposure will exceed safe levels.

And that’s the problem with studies focusing just on personal listening device use. They are only one small part of the total daily noise dose. Flamme, et al., found that 70% of adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan received total daily noise doses exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe noise limit of 70 decibels time weighted average for a day. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that almost 25% of American adults had noise-induced hearing loss, many if not most without occupational exposure.

As the CDC states, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. No noise, no hearing loss.

Protect your ears now and you won’t need hearing aids later.

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.

Eric Clapton has tinnitus and is losing his hearing

 

Photo credit: Majvdl licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

And so he told BBC Radio while promoting his new documentary, “Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars.” Every pop culture site has reported some version of this story, but not one asks why or how he has tinnitus and hearing loss, even as the Variety piece linked above notes:

Clapton isn’t the only musician who’s dealt with tinnitus. The Who’s Pete Townshend has also discussed his own problems with the condition and hearing loss.

Townshend did more than that–he pointed his finger squarely at earphones used in studio as the cause of his hearing loss and expresses concern about earbud exposure among the youth.

Perhaps music and entertainment magazine should look into how and why music icons are suffering hearing loss and educate their audience on how to avoid the same fate.

An interesting report on access + ability

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Access + Ability is the name of an exhibit open now at the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York City.

This column in the New York Times discusses some of the many issues involved in designing products and increasingly apps to assist those with disabilities.

The author doesn’t mention one such app which I think will be a great help to those of us with auditory disorders–hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis–namely, Greg Scott’s free SoundPrint app, which allows measurement of sound levels in restaurants and bars and then posting this information for that specific restaurant or bar on a publicly accessible site.

I think it’s great that people with disabilities are being helped both by laws requiring modifications to make public places accessible to them, and now by new technologies. But it’s better to avoid a disability if one can. Driving safely in a safety-rated vehicle and wearing a seat belt is one way of reducing the likelihood of serious physical injury from a motor vehicle crash. Avoiding loud noise and wearing hearing protection reduces the danger of noise-induced hearing loss, the most common type of hearing loss.

Protect your ears. Like your eyes and knees, God only gave you two of them!

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.

Loud music is just as addictive as smoking

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from New Zealand states that loud music is just as addictive as smoking.

The only quibble I have with the report is that it states that hearing loss begins at an 85 decibel exposure and that 85 decibels is a safe volume limit for children. Neither statement is correct. Both I and the NIOSH Science Blog have written about how the 85 decibel standard is an occupational standard that should not be used a a safe noise exposure standard for the general public.

But the basic premise of the report–that noise exposure from personal music player use by children is causing hearing loss–is sound.

So break the habit, and lower the volume. Your ears will thank you.

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.

Cigarette use has dropped sharply among teens

Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in the New York Times documents a sharp drop in smoking by teenagers.

Finally, decades of public health education about the dangers of smoking, restrictions on sales of cigarettes to minors, cigarette advertising, and no-smoking laws, appear to have worked.

Smoking is no longer cool. It doesn’t hurt that increased cigarette taxes have raised the average price of a pack of cigarettes above $6 in the U.S., and as much as $13 a pack in New York City, forcing most teens to choose between smoking and other things they’d rather do.

This report gives me hope that public health authorities can do something to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in teens by educating them about the dangers of noise for hearing; by requiring warning labels on personal music players, earbuds, and headphones; by restricting sales and use to older teens, perhaps above age 15; and perhaps by taxing these devices to fund a federal account to provide hearing aids to those damaged by personal music player use.

A recent editorial in the journal Pediatrics, titled “Adolescent Hearing Loss: Rising or Not, It Remains a Concern,” indicates that the problem is finally getting some attention in the pediatric community. [Note: The Pediatrics link is to a short abstract.  Subscription needed to read the full article.]

The first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was published in 1964. I hope it doesn’t take more than 50 years to protect young people’s hearing.

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.