by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
When I was in elementary school, a common assignment during the first days or weeks of school was to write an essay on the topic, “What I did during summer vacation.” I don’t know if schoolchildren today will be asked to write essays about “What I did during the COVID-19 lockdown” when they return to school in person, but this is my report, with a nod to October’s being National Protect Your Hearing Month.
What did I do during my abundant free time during lockdown? When I wasn’t working on noise activities I worked home-improvement or repair projects at our home, with a major project at my in-laws’ home as well. I won’t bore you with the entire list, but it includes:
- Removing shelving and flooring from two large closets, patching the walls, repainting them, and installing new shelves and flooring.
- Removing carpet from one room, patching the walls, repainting the walls, and installing new flooring.
- Removing a warmer drawer in the kitchen, modifying the cabinet to fit the new warmer drawer, refinishing that side of the kitchen island, and installing the new warmer drawer.
- Removing a trash compactor, finishing the inside of the cabinet, and installing the new trash compactor.
- Cutting out wood rot in an exterior door frame, installing a new piece of wood, patching and filling the repair, sanding it smooth, and repainting the door frame.
- Repainting the interior and exterior of the front door and the windows surrounding it.
- Removing six exterior lights in front of the house and installing new exterior light fixtures.
- Removing old water feeds for all toilets and sinks and replacing them with new shutoff valves and braided stainless steel water feeds.
- Repaired the washing machine and replacing a leaking hose.
- Reconstructing a large trellis at my in-laws’ house.
What’s the connection to National Protect Your Hearing Month? Every project was noisy. Demolition work is noisy. Power tools are noisy. And many hand tools, perhaps with the exception of a pliers or screwdriver, are noisy when used. Among the power tools used were a circular saw, a sliding compound miter saw, hand saws, drills, a nut driver, a hammer drill, a multitool, two different reciprocating saws, and a quarter-sheet sander. Hand tools included hammers, pry bars, crowbars, screwdrivers, chisels, scrapers, paint brushes and rollers, etc. Painting is quiet and plumbing is quiet, but all the other tasks were noisy. The only time I didn’t have my earplugs in was when I was painting or using pliers, a wrench, or a screwdriver.
And that’s my advice to you: If like many other Americans you’re doing repair and home improvement projects during the COVID-19 lockdownHome improvement projects are underway during COVID-19 please protect your hearing!
There is no such thing as temporary auditory damage, and the cumulative effect of loud noise will eventually cause hearing loss.
So even if you’re hammering in only one nail or cutting one board with your circular saw, wear hearing protection.
That’s my advice before, during, and after October, National Protect Your Hearing Month.
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He 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. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.