New Yorker writer worries about her ears–you should be worried, too

Photo credit: Scott Robinson licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition New Yorker staff writer Amanda Petrusich is worried about what noise is doing to her ears. She’s right to be worried. We all should be worried. As the world has gotten louder–perhaps because “everyone knows” that 85 decibels is safe because the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders tells us “long or repeated exposure to sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss”–a vast uncontrolled experiment is taking place in the U.S., with 320 million subjects. Gregory Flamme and colleagues showed that 70% of adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan got total daily noise doses exceeding Environmental Protection safe noise levels for preventing hearing loss. Not surprisingly, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control reported a year ago that 25% of American adults have noise-induced hearing loss, including many people without any occupational noise exposure. 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 75 A-weighted decibels, which also happens to be the auditory injury threshold. Your ears are like your eyes or your knees. You only have two of them. Keep them away from loud noise and they should last you your entire life.

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