Tag Archive: National Institutes of Health

The NIH recognizes noisy restaurants are a problem

Photo credit: Alan Light licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

With this web content posted last year as part of its Dangerous Decibels program, the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, finally recognizes that restaurant noise is a problem. Unfortunately, NIDCD persists in stating that

Research shows that long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Signs of having been exposed to too much noise include not hearing clearly or having ringing in your ears after leaving a noisy environment.

We disagree. By the time one can’t hear clearly or experiences tinnitus, it’s too late–permanent hearing damage has occurred. The damage occurs because 85 decibels is not a safe noise level for the public. As I wrote in the American Journal of Public Health, the only evidence-based safe noise exposure level to prevent hearing loss is 70 decibels time-weighted average for a 24-hour period. The 85 decibel standard NIDCD relies on is an occupational noise exposure level, and that standard fails to prevent hearing loss in all exposed workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health agrees, and the auditory injury threshold, discussed by Flamme, et al., is only 75-78 A-weighted decibels (dBA).

A simple rule to protect hearing is “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 level is above 75 dBA (see figure D-1, “Information on Levels of Environmental Noise Requisite to Protect Public Health and Welfare with an Adequate Margin of Safety”) and auditory damage is occurring. And, unfortunately, many if not most restaurants are noisier than 75 dBA.

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.

Mapping the Sounds of New York City

The National Institutes of Health’s “It’s A Noisy Planet” program has posted information about a group of scientists leading an innovative project, Sounds of New York City (SONYC). SONYC is a five-year research project, funded by grants from New York University’s Center for Urban Sound and Progress, Ohio State University’s School of Engineering, and the National Science Foundation, in which “[r]esearchers will create maps of sounds through sophisticated technology, big data analysis, and citizen reporting.”

During the first phase of the project, which was launched in late 2016, approximately 100 sensors will be installed on public buildings around Manhattan and Brooklyn. “The sensors will record snippets of audio, about 10 seconds each, during random intervals,” and “[d]ifferent types of street noise, such as jackhammers, sirens, music, yelling, and barking, and seasonal sounds such as air conditioners, leaf blowers, and snowplows, will be recorded.”  In the second phase, the “sensors will transmit data about the time and day of sounds and provide an estimate of the sound level.”

In the end it is hoped that the project could contribute “to creating a quieter city” and help reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Click here for more information about SONYC.


Is your home too noisy?

Here are six tips to make your world less noisy. Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, writes about the National Institutes of Health’s campaign against noise-induced hearing loss called “It’s a Noisy Planet – Protect Their Hearing.”  Noting that “[t]his type of hearing loss can be permanent, but it is preventable,” Riggs provides six useful tips for limiting your family’s exposure to noise, including monitoring the volume of earbuds, keeping outdoor noises outdoor, and checking the noise rating of common household appliances.  Click the link to to read more about her tips for protecting your family’s hearing.