Thursday, May 15, 2008

Noise Pollution Can Hurt You

Author: Phyllis Wasserman

Car alarms, screeching subway cars, loud bars and barking dogs are only a few of the annoyances that can harass people on a daily basis. In a large metropolitan city, these things are the norm and are actually harmful to your ears.

If you are exposed to this constantly you can suffer permanent hearing loss. A rock concert has the noise level of 110 decibels. Even a crowded restaurant can be as much as 96 decibels. And if the sound was not enough, it can damage your ears immediately. When noise is loud it can kill the nerve endings in the inner ear. There is no way to restore nerve endings that are dead. Hearing loss happens gradually, so you would not know about it unless you have your ears tested. By then it can be too late.

Noise also has other detrimental factors. It can cause high blood pressure, fatigue and headaches. It can cause anxiety and difficulty focusing on chores.

New York city became the first city in the United States to adopt a noise code in 1972. It is still in effect today. The law says that no car alarm can ring for more than 3 minutes and that construction can only occur weekdays between 7 A.M. and 6 P.M. and weekends 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. The only way it is enforced is through complaints. You can be fined $45 for ""unreasonable noise"" and as much as $8,000 for larger violations (say, in a nightclub).

Listening to an iPod? Don't spin the dial up more than two thirds. Earbuds can increase the volume and put your ears in constant danger.

The average rock concert has 115 decibels, fifteen minutes is the most you can handle without ear plugs. If they are properly fitted, ear plugs work very well. Foam earplugs are made to last only a couple of days. Wax ones are stronger. There are also custom made silicon-rubber earplugs, which you can wash and re-use for years. They can cost as much as $125.

Sound proofing your home is a good idea as well. Hang heavy window curtains and use acoustical tile where possible. If you really need some quiet time, go to the beach, swim, or go to the library.

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