Noise is present everywhere in Concord and Walnut Creek. Exposure to loud sounds over extended periods can lead to hearing loss. Most sources of potentially harmful noise are pretty obvious; loud rock concerts, Oakland A’s baseball games and traffic or construction on the 680 can all cause permanent damage to your hearing. Some factors are far less obvious; a teen from Canada wondered whether automated hand dryers might contribute to hearing loss, so she set out to study the issue – and had her results published in a medical journal.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise exposure is the top cause of hearing loss in Concord and Walnut Creek. Loud sounds that exceed 85 decibels (dB) cause irreversible damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain for interpretation. This condition, known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), affects people of all ages.
A 13-year-old Canadian teen named Nora Keegan was curious whether hand dryers might be a source of noise-induced hearing loss after observing how kids in bathrooms often covered their ears and avoided using the hand dryers. She found them so noisy they sometimes caused her ear pain, so she decided to look into the problem. Her study was published in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health.
This was a subject few people had ever given even passing notice to. In retrospect, given that the average decibel levels of automated hand dryers is more than 100 dB, they seem like a legitimate source of concern – especially for children, whose smaller stature puts their ears closest to the airstream from these machines.
Nora conducted her study in public restrooms in her hometown of Calgary for more than a year, measuring decibel levels with a portable decibel-meter after coming up empty-handed in her quest for online information from the manufacturers of these devices. In order to ensure accuracy, she took up to 20 readings per hand dryer and found that many of them exceeded 100 dB, loud enough to cause irreversible hearing loss in 15 minutes or less. Most of the models Nora tested were loudest when hands were in the airflow and at the place where air exited the machines – right at kid-level.
While it’s unlikely you’re going to be drying your hands for 15 minutes nonstop, the cumulative effects of noise over time can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Nora’s study helps raise awareness of the dangers of hearing loss in children and throws down the gauntlet for the manufacturers of hand dryers and other noisy machines to put their devices through more rigorous testing to ensure claims about noise levels are accurate.
For more information on hearing loss, contact your Concord or Walnut Creek audiologist.
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