A new study in New York City is investigating whether or not the racket and cacophony of daily life might have a negative impact on our hearing health. Funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers from New York University and Ohio State University are conducting the first phase of a five-year program called Sounds of New York City (Sonyc) to measure noise levels in the city.
Why you ask? It might sound ambitious, but Sonyc plans to create an aural map of the city to help agencies monitor and enforce noise pollution regulations. Using 100 specially-designed sensors dispersed throughout the city, researchers hope that their map will provide the data necessary to create the technology needed to target noisy sources and effectively reduce noise pollution in New York.
In a city like New York, however, reducing noise pollution is no easy task. While the US government recommends keeping noise level averages below 70 dB, in midtown Manhattan, noise frequently reaches or exceeds 95 dB – a frighteningly loud level. For those of us who live in urban environments, the noise of daily life can be more than just annoying – it can be dangerous.
That being said, even in rural areas, there are very few places in the continental United States that are free from man-made noise. A recent study of 290 US national parks showed that 67% of them experience significant human-caused noise, particularly from aircraft and roads.
If noisy streets and loud national parks are simply the new normal, then how can we best protect our hearing health from excessive noise? While this may seem like an insurmountable challenge, there are a number of steps you can take toward this goal:
Excessively noisy neighborhoods and cities may be a new normal, but you don’t have to expose yourself to unnecessary hearing damage or loss. If you want to protect yourself from noise pollution there are a few proactive measures you can take toward better hearing health. But, if you’re concerned about your current hearing health, be sure to reach out to your hearing healthcare provider for individual guidance and advice.