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Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss

Expert urges people to protect their ears when going to firework displays, concerts

SATURDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) --Some of the most common sounds of summer can expose listeners to permanent hearing loss, one researcher warns.

The cautionary note was sounded by David Coffin, director of Ball State University's audiology clinic in Indiana.

Risky noise, he says, can come in the form of the pop of fireworks, the snarls of traffic, the buzz of lawn mowers, or the percussive tones of marching bands.

Such sounds are typically within the range of 90 decibels to 140 decibels, said Coffin, but any noise above 80 decibels can cause long-term hearing damage.

"We are living in a society that gets louder every year," Coffin said in a news release from Ball State. "Now that the weather is warmer, we are exposed to all sorts of sounds that can lead to permanent hearing loss. The average person will wear a helmet when riding a bike, or a seat belt in a vehicle, but doesn't even think about ear protection when going to watch a rock band, a fireworks display, or even an auto race."

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 15 percent of Americans below the age of 19 suffer from some measure of hearing loss.

Signs of hearing loss due to unsafe sound exposure include not being able to comprehend somebody talking from two feet away; hearing muffled speech; experiencing pain or ringing in the ears following exposure; and needing others to speak louder in conversation.

However, Coffin stressed that while hearing loss is not reversible, noise exposure is a serious but preventable problem.

To reduce risk, Coffin advises that people wear ear plugs or alternative forms of hearing protection to buffer the noise pollution of summer.

More information

For more on noise pollution and hearing problems, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

--Alan Mozes

SOURCE: Ball State University, May 17, 2010, news release

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