Plug Your Ears, Save Your Hearing!

July 24, 2012 | By | Comments (2)

Well, I think I’ve definitively slipped over to the side of fuddy-duddy—as evidenced by the fact that when I went to a Spinning class this morning, I didn’t hesitate to pop in a pair of the yellow earplugs that Soul Cycle offers. Sure, the volume can be loud in the tightly-packed studio, but that’s part of the allure of the class! Unfortunately, I simply can’t take it.

And when I think about it, I could never really take it. I listen to music at an astonishingly soft level. I never enjoyed big music concerts or even more intimate concerts—it’s simply too loud for me. When a giant flatbed truck clangs and rumbles down the street, I cringe and grit my teeth until it passes. Police, fire, and ambulance sirens and rattling subway cars? I’m that person childishly plugging my ears with my index fingers.

When it comes to listening to music at home, at least, I think the reason I like to keep it at a low level is because I don’t like that feeling of being cut off from other sounds I’m listening for—a cry from the baby monitor, perhaps, or the ringing of my cell phone. (The music issue can be a thorny one with my husband—who feels that listening to music at my preferred level, in particular, is downright depressing.)

But it’s also a health issue! Loud sounds can permanently damage your hearing. And it’s not just rampant iPod/earbud use that’s contributing to the problem, but loudness in every facet of our lives—from car stereos to lawn mowers. In fact, the American Academy of Audiology has a whole campaign called Turn It to the Left (ha!), devoted to encouraging safe listening practices and increasing awareness about the types of hearing loss that can be avoided. Oregon Health & Science University has a public health campaign too: Dangerous Decibels.

I also wonder if I’ve passed on this vulnerability to volume onto my nearly three-year-old daughter. She’s always been quite sensitive to sudden, loud sounds, and when she hears a garbage truck rumbling outside she immediately requests that I “please make it go away.” I routinely have to hold her close and soothe her when a particularly loud firetruck peals down the street. Our apartment buzzer sounds somewhat like a staccato air-raid siren, and so I always give her plenty of advance warning before someone comes over and presses it. (And let us all pray for no ring-and-runs!) All of this leads me to believe that my little girl seems to have inherited my auditory sensitivity! I guess the positive side is that she’ll always know to plug her ears when she’s amidst dangerous decibels?

What about you: Are you sensitive to sound? Do you like to pump up the volume or keep it quiet, like me?