FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that about 90 percent of New York City residents may be at risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure, with MP3 players appearing to be a major culprit.
The research has major limitations: It doesn't directly measure what Big Apple residents hear during their daily lives or physically track their activities. Even so, the study's lead author said the findings are a sign that risks to hearing lurk in the urban environment.
"We need to step up our efforts to encourage people to protect their hearing," said Richard Neitzel, an assistant professor of risk science at the University of Michigan. "Maybe we need to put a little more money into making transit quieter and do a better job educating people that listening to music, if it's loud enough, can hurt you."
Previous research has tracked the loudness of the noise that people encounter from transportation like subways and ferries, Neitzel said. But it wasn't clear how much time people spent being exposed to the noise.
For the new study, Neitzel and colleagues created a survey that they gave to more than 4,500 New York City residents who were recruited at street fairs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The participants in the 2008 and 2009 surveys received a $1 lottery ticket in exchange for taking part and answering questions about topics like their work lives, their time spent on transit and leisure-time activities.
The researchers then estimated how much noise the subjects were exposed to based on previous research into how much sound is produced by transit, music players and other sources.
It would be more ideal to use devices that measure noise to figure out how much sound the subjects were exposed to each day, Neitzel acknowledged. But that's an expensive and complicated proposition, he noted. Instead, he said, "we took the approach of tal
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