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Car Airbags Will Cause Permanent Hearing Loss in 17 Percent

e outside the inner ear. This stiffening limits the transmission of energy to the inner ear, where hearing damage takes place. In airbag experiments where the cabin is completely sealed and pressure is even higher, hearing damage is reduced even further.

Price’s study only included cars sold in the United States with front and side airbags. Under U.S. regulations, American cars must have larger, more powerful airbags than cars sold in places like Europe. Cars with smaller airbags sold in other parts of the world would likely pose less auditory danger when tested under identical circumstances, Price said.

The analysis was done using the Auditory Hazard Assessment Algorithm for the Human (AHAAH) model, which utilizes anatomical components of the ear’s structure to predict hearing loss due to exposure to intense sounds above 130 dB. It has been shown to predict hearing loss accurately in 95 percent of the cases in which human ears have been exposed.

NHCA Director of Education Brian Fligor praised Price’s work, saying it takes a revealing look at the side of new technologies people rarely think about.

“We often consider only the benefits of safety technology, rather than the unfortunate potential side effects,” Fligor said. “This type of study highlights how common everyday occurrences present a very real hazard to our hearing.”

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