Protect Your Hearing

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Oct. 20, 2011

*Link to original article here

Thursday is Halloween pub night at Sheridan’s Marquee, but before you dance the night away, you better make sure you’ve brought protection.

Uh, bring ear plugs.

Loud music in night clubs and at rock concerts has been measured between 110 and 115 decibels – the same as a power saw and sandblaster, respectively. As little as one minute of unprotected exposure at that level can be damaging to your hearing.

Normal conversation is around 60 decibels and does not pose any risk.

“There is something called ‘the dose,’” said Marshall Chasin, an audiologist and researcher. “That is, we can be [safely] exposed to 85 decibels for 40 hours a week.”

For each three decibel increment, exposure time is cut in half: 88 decibels = 20 hours a week, 91 decibels = 10 hours a week, 94 decibels = five hours a week, and so on.

If you are going to be exposed to more than that 85 decibels for 40 hours a week he recommends wearing hearing protection.

Wearing ear plugs can increase the time you can be exposed to higher decibel levels. To help you choose the right pair, most are labelled with their added decibel protection.

“Give your ears a little bit of a rest.”

Noise exposure at work
John Kotsiopoulos is head of security at Sneaky Dee’s concert venue in Toronto and has worked in night clubs for more than 20 years. He now has noise-induced hearing loss, bad enough that he has difficulty hearing regular conversation.

Maintaining communication among security is a key part of the job. Ear plugs from a couple of decades ago muffled safe sound levels which meant having to remove them to engage in conversation.

“Back then it was kinda hard when you had the ear plugs in and you had the old-style mics, they were just like a little speaker on your shoulder,” said the 38-year-old. “So if you had the ear plugs in you could barely hear them talking to you. You were more or less waiting for a vibration and you were reaching for the ear plugs.”

When he first started out in club security he would be stationed near the speakers. Now he secures the outside queue, and while his hearing is no longer being harmed, the effects from previous damage make it harder for him to do his job.

“It’s part of my job to hear when people are talking,” he said. “You know, they try to hand off IDs to each other and they’re whispering back and forth.”

Jeremy Pestell, a Sheridan Community and Justice Services graduate, has been working in around loud music for the last three years and feels his hearing has deteriorated as a result.

He works security at the Davis and Trafalgar Campus pubs as well as nightclub security on weekends.

Even though he notices some hearing loss, he isn’t too concerned with the possibility of losing his hearing entirely.

“Here [Marquee] it’s not normally too bad, because I have an ear piece for communication between staff,” said the 20-year-old. “So that blocks out one ear. I do find that my left ear is worse than my right.”

When working concert security, he is often posted right beside the speakers. To counter any potential damage from close exposure, he tries to avoid loud music in his leisure time.

Along with working concert, night club and Sheridan pub security, Pestell is also exposed to constant noise from equipment while working in the Trafalgar Campus’ kitchen, where he is head cook. Besides appliance noise, there is a lot of yelling.

He doesn’t really wear ear plugs because he finds they hinder communication with patrons and staff, especially in the kitchen.

“Security guards at a rock concert or bartenders at a bar can wear hearing protection that will take the sound level to a non-damaging level but still allow them to hear their patrons,” said Chasin.

Keeping music in your life
Technological advancements have led to better hearing protection. Custom-fitted specialty ear plugs can be costly, but lower cost, ready-fit options are available.

The average person probably won’t wear ear plugs regularly, but this doesn’t mean you have to stop listening to loud music. Just moderate your exposure. And yes, you can still blast your iPod.

“There’s nothing wrong with using your MP3 player, as long as you do it in moderation,” said Chasin. “The rule of thumb is the 80:90 rule: Eighty per cent volume for 90 minutes a day is your maximum.”

So if you’re listening to your favourite song, turn up the volume and enjoy it thoroughly.

“Just turn it back down to 80 per cent or less on the volume control wheel when it’s over.”

The same goes for concert and nightclub frequenters.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with going to a rock concert,” Chasin said.

Going to a pub on Friday nights won’t hurt you if you’re only there for an hour or two without protection. Just don’t do other things that week that are particularly noisy. Have someone else mow the lawn on Saturday morning.

“Give your ears a little bit of a rest.”



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