Modern life is loud. We’ve grown accustomed to it, but the fact is the everyday environment that many of us live in is not very good for our hearing health.
This includes a daily fact — times two — for many: commuting.
The common car honking, subway clatter, bus engine roar, and general mayhem that is part of getting from Point A to Point B every morning and evening can take a toll.
A recent Canadian study, which used Toronto as its laboratory, found that commuters are regularly exposed to short bursts of sound that exceed safe limits. It’s known that ears can be damaged by that kind of repetitive contact to loud, jarring sounds.
Researchers fitted a number of commuters with noise dosimeters — small devices that measured sounds in the A-weighted decibels (dBAs), a methodology for gauging sounds that humans are especially sensitive to.
Measurements were taken in a myriad of settings — including inside cars and mass transit vehicles — as well as walking and bicycle-riding situations. What they found was that all commuters are subject to bursts of extreme sound, but that those riding the subway and streetcars were subject to the most frequent “peak” noise events.
About 20 percent of the time, this exposure included bursts in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety standards. Four-second bursts above 114 dBA on subways and one-second bursts above 120 dBA on streetcars were 20 percent of the “peak” sound events that commuters experienced.
Long-term exposure to sound bursts in excess of WHO/EPA recommendations can lead to hearing loss. If this sounds familiar, consider the use of earplugs on your commute.