Manitoba·In Depth

Jets fans risk hearing damage

A Winnipeg School Division survey has found that spending long periods of time in gyms can cause hearing loss, but experts say there are other ways to damage your hearing.
A Winnipeg School Division survey has found that industrial arts classrooms are one of the loudest areas in a school. But audiologists say schools aren't the only place where one can get long-term hearing damage. (CBC)

A recent survey by the Winnipeg School Division shows gym teachers risk losing their hearing after spending long periods of time in noisy gymnasiums.

But audiologists and other hearing specialists say there are a lot of other ways to damage your hearing.

They say many people are oblivious to the perils of high noise levels, and they aren't just talking about teens blasting their playlists at high volume on their ear buds.

Here are five other ways you can get long-term hearing damage:

1. Going to a Jets game.

Winnipeg Jets fans boast that they have the loudest building in the NHL, but you probably won't hear audiologists applauding that claim.

A study of noise during a 2006 Edmonton Oilers playoff game found that noise levels far exceeded safe limits of 85 decibels for most of the game.

According to researchers from the University of Alberta, the arena sound was the same as being 1.5 metres from a chainsaw for two hours. When a goal was scored, the volume spiked to the level of a jet taking off.

"The risk of hearing loss for those who attend hockey games frequently (e.g., season ticket holders, arena workers and the hockey players themselves) warrants serious consideration," according to the researchers.

2. Working in a hair salon.

You wouldn't think a hair dryer would be a noise hazard, and it normally isn't.

At 85 decibels, it's safe for short periods of time.

However, hair stylists who are constantly exposed to the sound of hair dryers day after day could face hearing damage over their career.

3. Looking after children at a daycare centre.

Active children in a daycare can generate a lot of noise. Studies around the world have shown a lot of that noise can be hazardous, especially if the daycare lacks baffles and other devices to reduce sound reverberation.

When daycares in Copenhagen were modified to reduce noise to safe levels, the rate of workers' sick leave and stress fell dramatically.

4. Working in an animal kennel.

Sound levels in a typical animal shelter or kennel can regularly exceed 100 decibels. That level can cause hearing damage in both humans and animals alike.

Furthermore, most kennels have concrete floors and metal enclosures that cause sound to reverberate around the room.

Kennel workers should also know that a U.S. National Health and Nutrition study showed that a noisy workplace is more likely to cause chest pain, heart attack and high blood pressure.

5. Working on house construction sites.

Most workers inside noisy factories wear ear protection. It's required by law. But how often do you see workers using ear protection at a house building site?

Yet they appear to be just as vulnerable as factory workers, even though they aren't as exposed to constant noise.

One study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that a sample of 25-year-old carpenters had the hearing ability of a 50-year-old.

Researchers theorize that shorts bursts of sound caused by electric saws, air nailers and other tools causes significant damage.

So how do you know if your workplace is too noisy? Audiologists say if you have to raise your voice to be heard, the noise level is probably excessive.

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