Mass Transit Commuters and Hearing Loss
Do you take mass transportation to get to work every day? If you do, I would bet you also stick headphones in during your commute to block out all the background noise. It’s a natural and common practice in this day and age, but it could be detrimental to your hearing. Researchers recently studied New York City mass transit commuters to gauge their knowledge of noise induced hearing loss and their use of personal listening devices.
An analysis of the mass transit systems in New York City including subways, buses, ferries, tramways, and commuter railways found that all transit types exceed sounds of 70 dbA (Decibels) with louder areas exceeding 80 dbA. It was additionally determined that noise exposure of 90 percent of the transit users exceeded the recommended annual exposure limit of 70 dBA. Therefore, when people use personal listening devices, they must turn them up louder to block out the background noise. Those who use personal listening devices during their commute exceed annual listening time by almost 150 hours over nonusers.
For this study, regular transit commuters were asked how often they take transportation, what kind, if they have known hearing loss, if they listened to personal listening devices, how often etc. Almost 10 percent of respondents reported having a known hearing loss, 73 percent reported no known hearing loss, and the rest were unsure. A majority of the respondents indicated listening to music through a personal listening device for an average of two or more hours per week, mainly when commuting. They also recognized that the noise from the trains or subway reaches sound levels that could harm their hearing. However, only about 30 percent of them admitted to listening to the personal listening device at a dangerous or harmful level. Furthermore, they did not recognize the potential side effects of this behavior.
A majority of the participants were aware that hearing loss affects people of all ages and demographics, that hearing loss caused by noise exposure is preventable, and that tinnitus can be caused by excessive noise exposure. Many of them were also concerned about developing hearing loss in the future but only a handful of participants acknowledged the serious health consequences of hearing loss.
This research shows us that the public is not incredibly well-informed when it comes to noise induced hearing loss, the causes, and how to prevent it. The emergence of personal listening devices has had a daunting effect on our hearing, especially when we use them to block out already loud background noise. We must be aware of the damage these devices as well as noises from other sources like transit systems, have on our hearing and the consequences of that damage.