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Safety Pro

Your Home: The Deaf Chamber

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08/01/2009 - Hearing loss is the most widespread disorder in the U.S. today, affecting more than 28 million people. All of us, especially children, are exposed to more noise today than ever. Much of the noise creating this disorder is generated within our homes or through our hobbies.

We generate noise with vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, television sets, hair dryers, dishwashers, washing machines, blenders and other home appliances. Other common household items, such as noisy toys, lawn mowers, chain saws, weed eaters, and loud stereos, also pose a threat to our hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative and though preventable, it is permanent. Any noise level measured at 90 decibels or greater causes hearing damage. Examples of home-related noise includes:

Toys When we squeak a rubber duck or shake a rattle in our babies' ears, sound levels can be dangerously loud. Rattles, squeaky toys, toy musical instruments and toy phones have been measured up to 140 dBA and beyond.

Personal Stereo Systems with Headphones If at maximum levels, these systems can cause hearing damage with levels exceeding 112 decibels.

Garden Equipment and Power Tools Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws and other power tools can be as loud as 130 dBA and pose a serious risk to those who operate them. These loud sounds can create an environment that is not conducive to play, study, sleep or even carry on normal conversation.

Entertainment Systems Television volumes, stereo speakers, surround-sound, and other equipment creates noise levels that exceed 100 decibels.

Car Stereos Just turning on the radio to hear the news over road noise can exceed 90 decibels. When you crank up the volume to vibrate the vehicle as you cruise the mall parking lot, you are way out there. Not to mention causing problems for everyone else around you.

Home Hobbies Power tools (circular saws, drills, sanders, table saws), mechanical tools (air impact, welding), or other exposures can easily exceed 115 decibels or more.

I wear earplugs when cutting my grass or using the chain saw. Disposable plugs are very inexpensive and worth the protection that they provide. I am always helping my children turn down the volume on the television and computer games.

You don't need to wear hearing protection at home because of any federal regulations. I hope you aren't wearing it at work because of regulations. You wear it because of the exposure levels and the fact that you have more than just selective hearing when your spouse calls you for a 'honey do' list.

Unlike adjusting to heat or cold, your body does not get used to noise. When you think you are used to it, you are simply going deaf! And you don't get that hearing back.

Don't let your home become a 'deaf chamber.' Keep your noise levels down to avoid neighbor complaints and to ensure you will always be able to hear the music, the birds, and most importantly, your children.

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer and author with 30 years in safety and emergency response experience. He is the creator of "Safe At Home"(www.safeathomeonline.com), a column designed to 'protect you and yours in and from your home'. Comments always welcome at safetypro@roadrunner.com.

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