Noise Induced Hearing Loss is a Growing Problem Nationwide
Rock legend Pete Townshend of "The Who" has severe hearing damage resulting partly from the band's live gigs, but mainly from the deafening volume in which he used to listen to playbacks over the studio "cans." Completely deaf in one ear, Townshend's hearing damage manifested itself as tinnitus, a condition Townshend calls painful and frustrating.
Hearing loss due to environmental noise is a serious health hazard today, and it is on the rise. Exposure to loud noise for extended periods of time can lead to irreversible hearing loss and other health problems.
Of course there is no one “cure” for noise pollution, but there are preventative measures that can be taken.
Noise induced hearing loss can be generated from industrial noise as well as exposure to any amplified sounds, such as at concerts and nightclubs. Usually, hearing loss experienced from attending an extremely loud event is only temporary and will correct itself in time. However, musicians who entertain regularly in these environments often suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss over the course of their careers. Individuals who listen to music at extremely high volumes routinely are also vulnerable to permanent hearing loss.
Industrial sectors like airline, highway and light rail train systems, mining operations, construction, manufacturing and engineering industries contribute to the most serious levels of industrial noise pollution. In fact, according to OSHA officials, every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise.
Fortunately, the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss can be reduced or eliminated through the successful application of acoustical controls and hearing conservation programs. Employers today must invest in hearing protection measures that correspond to the type of noise and decibel levels to which their employees are subjected.
Generally, there are three levels of noise hazards: Impact noise (as in an explosion or gunshots); Intermittent noise (such as noise generated from heavy vehicle traffic), and continuous noise (machinery that runs constantly, such as generators, industrial pumps, lawn equipment, jackhammers, conveyors, residential heat pumps, etc.).
Businesses with noise issues serious enough to effect employees, visitors, neighbors or pedestrians look for noise reduction solutions that are most adaptable to their particular noise source and are capable of dramatically reducing noise and the health risks that go with it. Businesses with machinery so loud that ordinary conversation is impossible risk additional hazards when employees and visitors cannot communicate adequately.
In some industries such as mining and construction, specially designed ear protectors, or ear muffs offer protection from hearing loss in extreme noise surroundings, and in some instances enable communication by utilizing Bluetooth technology. In other settings, such as airport terminals, hospitals, jails and prisons, restaurants and others that experience high decibel ambient noise levels, sound barriers and sound reduction materials offer more practical solutions to combatting the health risks of noise pollution.
People need to become proactive about protecting their hearing throughout their lifetime. Today, Townshend promotes taking protective measures, including wearing earplugs, to reduce loud music to a level that does not damage the ear.
But it's not loud music alone that is damaging American's hearing. Environmental noise pollution is becoming a plague; individuals need to become proactive when it comes to protecting themselves from all types of damaging noise whenever possible.