Dr. Ben Kim
you know someone who is gradually losing his or her hearing?
is estimated that 10 million Americans suffer with noise-induced
hearing loss. In fact, noise is one of the most common occupational
hazards today, with as many as 30 million Americans being exposed
to harmful noise levels at work.
register sound through little hairs that vibrate in our inner ears
in response to different noises. When these hairs are exposed to
a sudden burst of very loud noise, or to a steady stream of fairly
loud noise, they can become damaged, resulting in hearing loss.
Sound pressure is measured in decibels (dB). Here are some everyday
sounds and their average decibel rankings:
faint, rustling leaves: 5
Typical speech: 60
Washing machine: 75
Busy city traffic: 85
Hair dryer: 90
Leaf blower, rock concert, chainsaw: 110
Ambulance, jack hammer: 120
Jet plane from 100 feet: 130
Fireworks, gunshot: 140
12-gauge shotgun: 165
loud is too loud? Steady exposure to noise that reaches 85 dB can
produce hearing loss. A one-time exposure to very loud noises like
a gunshot at 140 dB can also cause hearing loss. Listening to a
discman or walkman at a standard volume level of 5 for 15 minutes
a day is enough to cause permanent damage.
you probably dont walk around with a meter that allows you
to measure dB, a good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise
your voice in order to be heard by a person who is a couple of feet
away, the noise level is considered hazardous. Another practical
measure is to carefully observe for ringing in your ears or if sounds
feel flat or dull after leaving a noisy environment. If either of
these conditions are present, you were probably exposed to a hazardous
level of noise.
you are exposed to potentially harmful noises at work or home, I
recommend that you strongly consider using expandable or pre-molded
earplugs. You can find them at almost any pharmacy. An alternative
is to use earmuffs, although they might not provide the same protection
as earplugs that sit snug in your external ear canal.
you have children who like to listen to music on their walkmans
or in their cars, please share this newsletter with them. They need
to be aware of the increased risk of hearing loss that they face
later in their lives because of their choices today.
more information about noise-induced hearing loss and what you can
do to prevent it, please visit the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/
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