Family Living Focus: Noise Pollution

Your mother was right when she told you to turn down the volume. Too much noise not only pollutes the environment; it can permanently damage your hearing.

More than 22 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have already permanently damaged their hearing by exposure to loud sounds. And research is finding that an ever-increasing number of young people have the hearing loss typically found in older adults.

It is easier than you think to permanently damage your hearing. The blast of a firecracker at close range can do it in an instant. Repeated exposures to loud engines like motorcycles or long hours spent listening to loud music can erode hearing more slowly.

If you are a construction worker, farmer, factory worker or airline employee, harmful sounds may be a regular part of your job. Harmful noises at home include vacuum cleaner, gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers and shop tools. Noisy recreational activities include target shooting and hunting, snowmobiling, riding go-carts, woodworking, and other noisy hobbies. Even some children’s toys produce sounds in the danger zone.

How loud is too loud? Prolonged exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels (dB) can cause gradual hearing loss. A normal conversation is about 60 dB. Many personal music systems at maximum level are over 100 dB. Rock concerts and firecrackers can be 140 dB and higher.

Noise-induced hearing loss usually happens slowly, with no pain. Right after exposure to noise, you may notice some “ringing” in your ears. You might have trouble hearing people talk. After several hours or even a few days, these symptoms may go away. However, when you are exposed to loud noise repeatedly, you could have hearing loss that lasts forever.

Exposure to loud sounds can damage or destroy the inner ear’s sensory hair cells. Once damaged, the hair cells do not grow back. Scientists once believed that loud noises damage the heir cells by the pure force of the loud sound vibrations. Recent studies, however, have found that exposure to noise triggers the formation of molecules called free radicals that known to kill off hair cells.

To protect your hearing, practice good hearing health in your everyday life. Here are some ways you can protect your hearing.

• Know which noises can cause hearing damage.

• Wear earplugs, earmuffs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity.

• Teach your children and grandchildren to lower the volume on their music systems and limit listening time.

• Be alert to hazardous noise in the environment.

• Protect children and grandchildren who are too young to protect themselves.

• Tell family, friends, and colleagues about the hazards of noise.

• If you think you have a hearing loss, see your doctor.


If you would like more information on “Noise Pollution” feel free to contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at HYPERLINK “mailto:waldn001@umn.edu” waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.


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