Noise: The Hidden Danger

When I landed my new job I was given rigorous safety training. I used high-speed machinery that could slice off a finger before I could hit the off switch. It could grab my tie and drag me into the machine in seconds. What we didn’t realize, until the government ran some tests, was that this machinery was slowly destroying our hearing. Earplugs became mandatory (even for the macho guys who made fun of them).

About 10 million Americans suffer partial hearing loss from noise. Few of them are jet mechanics or rock stars. They are victims of a hidden health danger that is found in many homes, schools, and offices. The reason experts know this danger exists for all of us is that hearing loss and permanent ringing in the ears is being reported at younger ages. A recent study shows that 46 percent of the children responding experienced ringing in the ears. “Once you lose your hearing, it never comes back,” says Malvina Levy, clinical audiologist at the San Francisco Hearing and Speech Center. What seems like a normal level of sound can be dangerous because of the way ears process sound.

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