Tag Archive: 100% preventable

Hearing Restoration: A Step Closer?

Photo credit: Ronna Hertzano et al. licensed under CC BY 2.5

By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A recent report that scientists in Boston have caused human hair cells to regrow in the laboratory is exciting news, holding out the promise of hearing restoration in the future.

But it is important to remember two facts:

1. Development and then approval of this technology for human use are likely to be years if not decades in the future, and the technology will most likely be very expensive.

2. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable and prevention is either free or inexpensive: avoid loud noise exposure and use hearing protection (ear plugs or ear muffs) if one can’t.

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.

 

This was reported as if it were a good thing:

Kentucky’s Rupp Arena breaks Guinness World Record for indoor crowd noise. According to the Kentucky Athletics’ twitter account, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena gets to claim the Guiness Book of World Records title for “the loudest indoor crowd roar ever!”  Yay, noise!  And just how loud was the roar?  It was 126.4 decibels.  How loud is that?  Well, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations provide that the permissible exposure limit for 126 decibels (A-weighted) is 0.054 hours or 3.25 minutes, so we are going with “really really loud.”  The article doesn’t say how long the roar was maintained, but even if it bested 3.25 minutes only the team staff and arena employees are protected under OSHA regulations.  Sorry fans and team athletes.

At least “[c]omplimentary earplugs were placed in most seats for fans who didn’t want to brave the noise.”  The article doesn’t explain why complimentary earplugs weren’t offered to all fans, nor does it ask why the Guinness Book of World Records is encouraging such irresponsible behavior.

One day, when people find out that most hearing loss is due to noise and that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, they are going to be very justifiably angry.  Until that happens, folks who follow the stock market may want to check out hearing aid companies.

Animals are responding to human noise:

Bats are adapting their hunting strategies to the noise of our cities.  The good news is that a study published in Science shows that bats appear to be successfully adapting to human noise.  But as a researcher not involved in that study notes, “[s]ome animals probably can’t [adapt].”  So what happens to them?  And what about humans?  As the world gets noisier, how will we cope?  Or not?  It’s certainly something that should be addressed sooner rather than later, because, as the article reports:

“This is way beyond bats now. This is about thinking about any animals,” says Paul Faure, the director of the Bat Lab at McMaster University, who was not involved in the study. “We are domesticating our planet, we’re creating noise pollution, we’re creating light pollution. We’re fundamentally altering the world that we live in.”

Noise and its effect on all animals, including humans, has been ignored for too long.  It’s more than just a nuisance.  Among other things, noise can damage hearing with one exposure.  It’s time that the federal, state, and local governments step up and regulate noise much as they regulate air or water pollution, treating noise as the public health hazard that it is.  It also is time for adults to assume some responsibility for their hearing and their children’s hearing by protecting themselves and others through the use of ear plugs and ear muff protectors, or by the simply lowering the volume when they can, and leaving a loud space when they cannot.  It’s time that we take noise-induced hearing loss and other noise-induced hearing injuries seriously.  Because until we do, people will continue to suffer permanent hearing injuries for which there is no cure, a particularly galling situation when one considers that noise-induced hearing injuries are 100% preventable.