Tag Archive: noise induced hearing loss

How to “rock out” with headphones without damaging your hearing? You can’t!

Photo credit: bruce mars from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In this article from the Cleveland Clinic, Sandra Sandridge, PhD, Director of Clinical Services in Audiology, offers advice on protecting hearing when using ear buds or headphones to listen to music.

She first notes that hearing loss is 100% preventable, and this might be the only statement that is accurate. Unfortunately, the advice she gives to prevent noise-induced hearing damage is not.

This piece is like an article fifty years ago advising smokers on how to smoke safely. One can’t! There is no such thing as a safe cigarette, and there is no such thing as safe headphone or ear bud use.

Dr. Sandridge notes that many headphones and ear buds can be too loud–most personal music players put out 100-110 decibel sound and some player-headphone combinations can reach 120 to 130 dB–but she implies that 85 decibels is the sound level at which auditory damage begins.

That’s not the cutoff between safe and unsafe sound levels. It’s derived from the NIOSH recommended exposure level for occupational noise, an exposure level that doesn’t prevent hearing loss.

Even in children age 9-11, who haven’t been using headphones very long, auditory damage is already present.

The only way to prevent auditory damage is not to use ear buds or headphones. Or to use Dr. Sandridge’s language:

The only way to rock out with ear buds or headphones without damaging your hearing is not to rock out with them!

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.

Hearing loss associated with depression

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’m not sure this new report on the association between hearing loss and depression in older Hispanic people in JAMA Otolaryngology adds much to our knowledge of how hearing loss affects people. It has been known for some years that hearing loss is associated with depression in older people. The report extends the research to Hispanic people in several large cities, but as best as I can tell, that’s the only new information. The authors claim that this study’s importance is that it measured hearing loss rather than relying on reports of hearing difficulties, but some earlier studies did that, too.

In older people it’s hard to tell if the hearing loss was caused by noise or not, because over time changes indicating hearing loss from noise lose specificity as hearing loss becomes worse. But my analysis of the literature suggests that what is commonly called age-related hearing loss, as in the JAMA Otolaryngology article, is really noise-induced hearing loss, which is entirely preventable.

Now that the connection between hearing loss and depression is clear, doesn’t it make sense for government and the medical community to commit resources to educate the public about the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss? A host of health concerns will diminish or disappear if we focus on stopping noise-induced hearing loss.

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.

Newly identified gene plays critical role in noise-induced hearing loss

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report about research done at the University of California-San Francisco describes identification of a new gene and its effects on proteins in the cochlea. The cochlea is the part of the ear where sound waves are transformed into electrical impulses which are transmitted to the brain and perceived as sound. The article notes that insights about the newly identified gene and the proteins it codes for may eventually lead to drugs to prevent hearing loss after noise exposure.

I have a much more practical suggestion that those concerned about their hearing can use today. Until that drug is available on the market–which will be years to decades to perhaps never, and who knows at what price–avoid noise-induced hearing loss by avoiding loud noise exposure. It’s simple, easy, and inexpensive. And I speak from experience–it’s what I do. I avoid loud noise, e.g., rock concerts, and if I can’t avoid loud noise, when flying in an airplane or using a power tool, for example, I wear noise-canceling headphones or insert earplugs.

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 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.

Going to a music festival this summer?

Make sure you go prepared with first-rate hearing protection. Cory Rosenberg, Mother Nature Network, writes about the growing popularity of music festivals and the potential harm they may cause.  Says Rosenberg, “live concerts have played a large part in the rise of noise-induced hearing loss over the past few decades for music fans and musicians alike.”

Rosenberg’s piece is pretty thorough, but he makes one glaring error when he says “[c]onsistent exposure to noise levels that reach 85 decibels A-weighted (dBA) is considered harmful.” As Dr. Daniel Fink has noted repeatedly, 85 dBA is an occupational noise exposure limit that was not intended, and is not appropriate, for the general public.

That proviso aside, if you are planing on going to a music festival this summer, you should give Rosenberg’s piece a read.

Quieter kitchens are possible

Photo credit: Bill Wilson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article is about making commercial kitchens quieter but the same principles apply to home kitchens.

Noise from blenders, mixers, and clanging pots and pans is loud enough to cause hearing damage.

We should probably put in our earplugs before kitchen appliances, and shouldn’t turn up the music loud enough to be heard over 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.

First potential biomarker for noise-induced hearing loss identified

The author, Julia R. Barrett, has dedicated this image to the public domain.

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found increase levels of a protein called prestin in blood after exposure to loud noise. The prestin comes from the hair cells in the cochlea when they are damaged by noise. If this research holds up, it can help researchers study drugs that might prevent hearing loss from noise exposure.

Of course, one doesn’t need a new protein or a drug to prevent hearing loss from noise exposure.

Just avoid loud noise.

If the ambient noise level is high enough that you have to strain to speak or to be heard when having a normal conversation, the ambient noise is above 75 A-weighted decibels, and your hearing is being damaged.

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 study shows hope for hearing loss. Again.

Image credit: Chittka L. Brockmann licensed under CC BY 2.5

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report shows hope for hearing loss, describing a technique that may work to deliver drugs to inner ear structures deep within the skull, perhaps to treat hearing loss.

Whether these techniques will actually work, will be approved by the FDA, and will be affordable remains to be seen, probably years or even decades in the future.

In the meantime, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound–or several pounds–worth of cure.

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Avoid loud noise and avoid hearing loss.

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 the auditory injury threshold of 75 A-weighted decibels, and your hearing is being damaged.

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.

March 3 is World Hearing Day

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

For the past several years, the World Health Organization has sponsored World Hearing Day, one day during the year when WHO draws attention to hearing health issues.

Each year WHO selects a theme for its communications. This year, the theme is “Hear the future.” With the theme “Hear the future,” World Hearing Day 2018 will draw attention to the anticipated increase in the number of people with hearing loss around the world in the coming decades. It will focus on preventive strategies to stem the rise and outline steps to ensure access to the necessary rehabilitation services and communication tools and products for people with hearing loss.

There are many causes of hearing loss–congenital conditions, repeated ear infections, head trauma, degenerative genetic conditions, various chronic diseases, and ototoxic drugs among them–but the most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure.

Which should give us a sense of hope in the fight against hearing loss, because unlike other causes, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Remember: if it sounds too loud, it IS too loud!

Your ears are like your knees or your eyes: you only have two of them. Take good care of them, protect them from loud noise, and you will be able to hear well all your 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.

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.

Noise is causing hearing loss in traffic police in India

Photo credit: GPS licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report from the Indian city of Pune documents hearing loss in traffic police. Apparently car horns are the main culprit. So how bad could it be?  This bad:

A study of 46 traffic personnel “found that 39 of the 46 traffic personnel could not pick up high frequency tones, indicating alarmingly high (83%) presence of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) among the city’s traffic police.”

And the damage isn’t limited to hearing loss, as “the traffic personnel were also screened for hypertension,” and “13 of the 46 traffic personnel have been diagnosed with hypertension, a condition they were unaware about.

I have traveled in India, although not to Pune, and it is a noisy country. The big cities–Mumbai and Delhi–are noisier than New York City, so this report isn’t a surprise to me.

But there’s no reason to believe that ears in India are different from ears in the U.S. Traffic noise causes hearing loss and other health problems in the U.S., too.

Perhaps India–and the U.S.–should follow Kathmandu’s successful effort at eradicating traffic noise, because it can be done if the political will exists.

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.