Tag Archive: earplugs

How to protect your hearing at holiday parties

Photo credit: Maurício Mascaro from Pexels

by G.M. Briggs

British charity Action on Hearing is advising Brits to protect their hearing this holiday by donning earplugs before going to holiday parties.  I agree.  At a recent holiday party, these came in handy:

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ah, the joy of musician’s earplugs.  Not cheap at $250 (your price may vary), but they are fitted, long-lasting, and the cost may be covered by health insurance or flexible spending accounts. There are a variety of filters (the round white disc you see in the photo), but I opted for 25 decibels.  And while everyone was talking about how loud the music was, for once I was perfectly comfortable.

So have fun this season and enjoy the holiday parties, but don’t leave home without your earplugs!

Attention: DJs and clubgoers

Stoneyroads.com interviews DJ Dom Dolla about the importance of protecting your ears in nightlife. The article begins with the observation that “[m]any of your favourite musicians suffer from tinnitus, and the condition can worsen over time from exposure to loud noises.” Dolla, we are told, is one of them.  Dolla notes that the “average nightclub sits at around 110 dB (Decibels), often louder.” He mistakenly relies on then occupational noise exposure standard when he claims that “anything over 85db is dangerous for our ears,” but correctly adds that “at 110 dB you can accumulate permanent hearing damage in a very short number of minutes.” This is particularly concerning since “[w]e’re part of a generation that spends such a disproportionate amount of time around loud music.”

So what’s Dolla’s advice? “[G]rab yourself some 25+ dB reduction earplugs and wear those bad boys religiously.” And he tells DJs that they must “resist the temptation to pull them out when you’re performing,” adding that if they “keep them in, it’ll only be a matter of time before your brain cranks up your internal gain and you’re used to playing with them.”

Dolla gets it mostly right, but his statement that 85 dBA is the point at which hearing can be damaged is dangerously wrong. As we have reported here before, 85 dBA is an industrial-strength standard developed by NOISH and OSHA for workers, not the general public. To the extent that Dolla’s advice is directed towards club workers, quoting the occupational noise exposure standard isn’t technically incorrect, but that standard is never appropriate for the general public. Says Dr. Daniel Fink, Chair of The Quiet Coalition, “the only way to prevent tinnitus and other hearing disorders caused by exposure to loud noise is to avoid loud noise or wear ear protection if you can’t.”

How to block out city noise

This would work. Photo credit: Max Alexander / PromoMadrid licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In response to Winnie Hu’s article about New York City noise, The New York Times NY Regional reporter, Jonathan Wolfe, has written a piece on how to block out the city’s noise. To get some answers, Wolfe spoke with “Tim Heffernan, a writer and editor at The Wirecutter, the New York Times site that evaluates products, to ask for noise-reducing recommendations.” What follows is Hefferman’s recommendations for the best noise-canceling headphones and over-the-ear headphones, the best white noise machine, and, of course, the best disposable ear plugs.

In addition to the recommenations in Wolfe’s article, the New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) suggests that apartment dwellers who live near busy streets with transient street noise consider the advice provided in the city’s “Residential Noise Control Guidance Sheet.” Says one DEP employee, “I use these principles in my own place.”

The DEP’s Residential Noise Control Guidance Sheet and Hefferman’s recommendations are sensible options for blocking noise that is intruding on your personal space. But we need to focus on the bigger issue, namely, keeping all noise in check. For example, along with recommending noise-blocking products, couldn’t The New York Times assign a health reporter to cover noise and its effect on health or report on why the federal government has abdicated its authority to regulate noise? (Here’s a hint: the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was kneecapped by industry after Ronald Reagan came into power.)

Blocking noise today may give us temporary relief, but it is a poor response to a long-term and significant public health hazard. We need government to regulate noise now to promote our wellbeing and protect our health.

Audiologists warn public about summer activities

Photo credit: Lars Plougmann licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Why the warning? Because some summer activities could cause exposure to hazardous noise levels. Stefanie Valentic, EHSToday, writes that “Ball State University audiologists are warning people to use hearing protection during activities that may expose them to hazardous noise this summer such as mowing the lawn, concerts and fireworks.” “[P]eople may suffer irreversible damage to their auditory systems after only brief exposure,” says Ball State audiology professor Lynn Bielski. Her colleague, Professor Blair Mattern, adds that “[e]xcessively loud noise, music or other sound exposure will damage our hearing. We need to take responsibility and protect it.”

Ed Pfeifer, TribLIVE, would agree. He asserts that ear protection now will pay huge dividends down the line. Pfeifer writes about the “crazy amount of abuse” the human body can take and yet continue to function. But, he adds, eventually there is a price to pay. For Pfeifer, the price was a “very slight drop” in his ability to hear. And the cause of his hearing loss? Pfeifer speculates that:

Numerous rock concerts, excessive gunfire and front row seats at the stock car races have all left their mark on the lobes on the sides of my head. But, I use power tools all the time and if I was a betting man I’d put my money on those tools as the main culprit.

He notes that “[c]hainsaws and circular saws run at about 110 decibels, most table saws hover around the 104 mark and the average confrontation with teenage children, 127.”  Pfeifer knows he can’t go back in time and tell his younger self to wear ear protection, but he is doing that now “to preserve every last bit” of what hearing he has left.

So the best advice this summer–and every summer–is to protect your hearing today so that you have it tomorrow. If you use loud lawn and garden equipment, find quieter replacementsthey exist–or, at the least, don’t start an engine before you put in a pair of earplugs or don ear muff protectors. And if your idea of summertime fun includes outdoor concerts, fireworks displays, or an afternoon at a race track or your workbench, always have a supply of earplugs handy. Ultimately, we must assume responsibility for our hearing.

Is this the most thoughtful birthday present ever?

Photo credit: Dave Crosby licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In California, on his or her birthday a 16-year-old gets a driver’s license and, if he or she is lucky, a car.

One Dutch town is thinking about what may be an even better birthday present, the gift of good hearing: Dutch town considers giving birthday earplugs to all 16-year-olds.

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

Need a pair of earplugs but not sure what to buy?

Photo credit: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Check out The Hippocratic Post’s Guide to ear plugs. Reporter Rebecca Wallersteiner provides a list of earplugs that are right for any occasion or user. Note that although the article’s links to purchase are to British sites, all of the reviewed earplugs can be purchased in the U.S.:

In addition, we have provided links to the best-selling ear muffs for children and adults on Amazon:

If he thinks the UK is loud, he should (not) visit the U.S.:

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

“I wear earplugs everywhere because Britain is too loud.”  Katie Morley, The Telegraph, reports that the UK’s “most famous choirmaster, Gareth Malone, has revealed that he wears earplugs everywhere he goes because Britain has become too noisy.”  Malone wears earplugs all the time because “ears are the tools of my trade and I don’t want to do anything to endanger them.”  Morley writes that despite Malone’s belief that he is “‘geeky’ for protecting his ears from loud sounds, Mr Malone may well be in common with an emerging breed of people who class themselves as intolerant to so-called ‘noise pollution.'”

She almost had us until her use of the unnecessary “so-called.”  Interestingly, while relying on that weasel word to modify the term “noise pollution,” the rest of the piece highlights the many ways in which noise has overwhelmed the UK and damaged the quality of life of a majority of Brits.  Sounds a bit melodramatic, but Morley writes that “two thirds of UK homeowners say their lives are being blighted by noisy activities of their next door neighbours.”

Click the link for the full story.