Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2013, page 5

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Why noise-induced hearing loss is a growing threat

By MJ DeSousa

A recent study from India isn’t simply an alarm bell for anyone concerned about hearing health. It is tantamount to a fleet of wailing sirens in the night. According to a study from a trio of educators in Maharashtra, India, noise-induced hearing loss is occurring at even younger ages than previously thought, and the primary causes are urban noises and the propensity for listening to media with the volume higher than the human ear can tolerate.

The study, published in the International Journal of Head and Neck Surgery in December, focussed on 150 students from the Bharti Vidyapeeth Dental College. The results showed that 75 percent of the students had been exposed to extreme noise pollution on a routine basis. Of those 75 percent of the students, 16 suffered noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The findings are disturbing because the research gives further credence to what many of us in the hearing-health industry already know, which is that more and more people are facing hearing damage at younger and younger ages.

What the Indian researchers showed, however, is that NIHL is occurring because of non-industrial noise. “So far risk of exposure to high noise level was considered to be limited to industrial environments only. However, with rap-id urbanization and modernization, the cities are becoming crowded as well as noisy. “Exposure to noise from these sources have put the population not exposed to industrial noise also at risk of NIHL, especially the younger population. “If corrective measures are not taken, this may lead to a high percentage of a younger urban population with permanent hearing loss,” says the study authored by Sunil Suresh Saler, Parul Sunil Saler, and Wilson Desai.

Some students in the study said they were exposed to loud noises at home, at school, and everywhere in between. Several of them told the researchers that they turn-ed their iPods or video-game consoles up to the maxi-mum volume level while wearing headphones. Previous international studies have shown that use of portable

stereos can lead to an increase in hearing damage. Australia’s National Acoustic Laboratories discovered that one quarter of its survey respondents were in danger of hearing loss because of their use of iPods and other similar devices. When we are young, we are more likely to take risks, and those risks can lead to health complications, as many people in their 30s and 40s are finding out when it comes to their ears.

Take Early Precautions

Hearing loss is a growing problem in the 21st century. Part of the issue has to do with technology we’ve adopted into our lives, but the more important threat is the increasing amount of noise we face because of situations that are often out of our control. Construction noise, traffic disturbances, and loud urban atmospheres put stress on the ears of millions of people on a daily basis. Exposure to such noise is a health risk that is increasingly unavoidable and global.

“People generally lack knowledge of the ill effects which noise pollution creates. To avoid NIHL, attention must be given toward the noise around us,” the study from India said. “Wear adequate hearing protection like foam ear muffs, or ear plugs. There will be a definite hearing impairment due to noise pollution, which can be either permanent or temporary, if early precautions are not taken.”

The good news is that awareness helps. Once you recognize a health risk, you can always take steps to prevent or limit the damage. That goes for anything from a toothache to blurry vision to a sudden ringing in your ears. All of those conditions can be treated, as long as you initiate the steps to address them. MJ DeSousa, an audiologist and Director of Professional Practice at Connect Hearing, leads a team of hearing professionals across Canada. For more information about hearing loss please visit the website.

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What to do when noise annoys

Hey you - yeah, you, gabbing loudly on your cell-phone - and you, with the yippy dog: there’s a new wave of gadgetry - labelled “annoyancetech” by The Wall Street Journal - and it’s coming for you.

Consider the Mosquito, marketed by a firm called Kids Be Gone. The $1,400 gizmo transmits a high-pitched sound wave that’s audible, the company says, only to those under 25. Kids Be Gone claims the Mosquito can scatter a group of teens in four minutes.

Phil Torrone, an editor at Make, a do-it-yourself technology magazine, hates cabbies who won’t lower a blaring radio. So he took a device that channels an iPod through a car stereo via FM frequencies, tinkered with it to extend its range to the backseat, and added a silent track to his iPod. The next time he got in a loud cab, he hit Play.

And how about Radio System’s Outdoor Bark Control Birdhouse ($50)? Its ultrasonic tones supposedly quiet most barking dogs within 50 feet (≈15 metres).

And though illegal in the U.S., gadgets that scramble cell signals are available online. So keep calls to yourself, or else.

- By Fran Lostys, Readers’ Digest

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Entire contents 2013 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon, 1996, Right to Quiet Society

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