People Who Ride Public Transit, Can Be At Risk Of Hearing Loss
17 Nov , 2015
Studies assessed the risk of hearing loss faced by New Yorkers who ride the subway. Does it help to cover your ears?
A widely discussed study of transit noise in New York City, measuring noise on buses as well as in subway cars and on platforms, was described as the first such formal study published since the 1930s.
Done by scientists at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and published in The Journal of Urban Health, the study concluded that noise levels at subway and also bus stops, could easily exceed recognized public health recommendations and had the potential to damage hearing, given sufficient exposure.
For example, guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization set a limit of 45 minutes’ exposure to 85 decibels, the mean noise level measured on subway platforms. And nearly 60 percent of the platform measurements exceeded that level.
The maximum noise levels inside subway cars were even higher than those on the platforms, with one-fifth exceeding 100 decibels and more than two-thirds exceeding 90 decibels.
The study recommended properly fitted earplugs and earmuff-type protectors in loud transit environments, saying they could cut noise levels significantly at the eardrum. And it warned that personal listening devices only increased the total noise and risk. Simply attempting to cover the noise with a pair of headphones, listening to your favorite music, does not alleviate the danger of damage to hearing but rather, increases it. A far more effective solution would be to wear your headphones with your music turned off. A rather nondescript and unassuming way of protecting your hearing while riding mass transit.