A vacuum cleaner registers 75 decibels, heavy traffic 80, a power lawn mower 100, amplified rock music 120. The rock music, so pleasant to some ears, is twice as loud as a chain saw, sixteen times as loud as normal conversation. Dangerous? A test of a thousand college freshmen found that more than 60 percent had lost their hearing in the high-frequency range. The same holds true for any of us who turn the volume up on our IPods.
Also, adults who work in noisy places should wear soft-foam ear plugs or even earmuffs to muffle industrial sounds around them. Rolling up the window in the car keeps heavy traffic noises out.
Interestingly, as much as as 50 percent of the noise level in our homes can be cut. Radio and television might be kept in a room that is made sound-resistant with acoustical tiles and other insulation. Put rubber mats under appliances and use them only one at a time. Outside noises can be kept outside by weather-stripping windows and using solid or filled doors rather than hollow ones. Carpeting and drapes also help to absorb unwanted noise.
There are indications that sound hurts us in many ways other than physical. Studies have shown that chronic exposure to heightened sound levels raises blood pressure, induces or irritates ulcers, and produces fatigue and irritability.
So pay attention to the noise around you. Turn it down or one of these days, when it is quiet enough to hear a pin drop, you wont be able to.
About the author: Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.
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