It’s estimated that 33 million North Americans suffer from some hearing loss and that in one-third of cases the cause is excessive noise
The Doctor Game
Trained Monkeys Should Attend Hockey Games. Do you know what I’d do if I owned a trained monkey? I’d give him my season tickets to hockey games at the Air Canada Center (ACC) in Toronto. It would save me from incessant, ear-splitting noise. Besides, it would also save me from repeatedly asking, “What did you say?”
To combat noise and prevent deafness, the European Union recently announced it’s capping the volume of iPods and other portable music players. The top level allowed is to be 80 decibels.
So how does 80 decibels compare with other routine levels of noise? Studies show normal talk is about 40, city traffic 80, subways emit 100 and rock concerts assault the ear with 130.
I’m a long-standing hockey fan. But if anything were to drive me away from the ACC it would be noise. In particular, the contests to see which section of the seats can shout the loudest. The audience responds like trained monkeys. I wonder about the senselessness of it all and the injury to human eardrums. And I question whether I should sue the ACC for having to repeat, ‘What did you say?”
It’s estimated that 33 million North Americans suffer from some hearing loss and that in one-third of cases the cause is excessive noise. Hearing experts say that almost every person 16 years of age and older has some degree of hearing loss. And that they are now treating young people with old ears.
How does excessive noise cause hearing loss? Hair cells situated in the cochlea of the ear stimulate nerve fibers to transmit messages to the brain where they are perceived as sound. Normal hair cells, viewed under high magnification, look like rows of planted palm trees. But like trees that may be bent or toppled in a tropical storm, sudden loud noise either bends or breaks these hair cells. Once lost, they never grow back. So go to enough hockey games or rock concerts and it’s easy to end up bald of hair cells in the ear long before you lose hair on the top of your head.
Remember that hearing loss is a “silent killer”. iPod users have no idea that they’re slowly, but surely losing their hearing. Only years later, when they develop ringing in the ears, or have to turn up the volume of the car’s radio, do they realize they’ve become deaf.
What can you do to preserve your hearing? Unfortunately, the EU ruling allows consumers to override the default setting and adjust it to a higher volume. This is a foolish decision and has been severely criticized by hearing specialists. So if our government ever sets a limit on noise levels, but gives the option to increase the level, don’t do it.
In the meantime music lovers should not set the volume higher than 60 percent of the maximum level. It’s already too high if you can’t hear conversation going on around you.
It’s ironic that people never question the wearing of ear protection in some situations, but never think about it in others. For instance, years ago I flew onto the deck of the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz. It’s one of the noisiest places in the world, where it’s mandatory to wear ear protection. And if I ever started shooting at my trap club without ear protection, I’d be expelled. Yet at the Air Canada Center the very highest volume is demanded over and over again.
An ear doctor recently told me he’s solved the problem at the ACC and wears earplugs to hockey games. And he claims that, contrary to popular belief, communication in noisy places is easier with earplugs than without them.
Fortunately I don’t have a trained monkey. It would be cruel to subject him to this noise. Besides, a trained chimpanzee would probably be too smart to see how loud he could yell. He’d let the human idiots do that.
W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker’s website is: docgiff.com.
Dr. Walker can be reached at [firstname.lastname@example.org?bcc=letters@canadafree.