Friday, July 22, 2005

Austin coverage of Catherine (my sweetheart) Musicians should protect ears

My wife, Catherine V. Palmer, is in the news today.
News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | Health Beat | Musicians should protect ears Musicians want to hear their music, but they don't want the very same music they create to gradually deafen them over time.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Health Beat
Musicians should protect ears

Musicians want to hear their music, but they don't want the very same music they create to gradually deafen them over time.

Continual exposure to loud music can cause significant hearing loss because sounds louder than 85 decibels can damage the ears. A decibel is a unit that measures the intensity of sound on a scale from 0 to 140. A normal conversation is about 60 decibels. Chainsaws, hammer drills, and bulldozers ring in at over 100 decibels.

So, if you are a construction worker, harmful sounds may be a regular part of your job. The same goes for people working around lawn mowers and factory machinery every day. However, loud noise does not have to be an everyday happening to cause damage.

One-time exposure, such as the sound of a gun firing at close range, can harm your ears permanently. A room full of boisterous high school band members or a night at a rock concert can also cause serious damage.

Sometimes, loud noise can cause a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus. This is the perception of sound in the ears or head when no external source is present. The word has Latin roots and means "to tinkle or to ring like a bell."

In almost all cases, tinnitus is a subjective noise, meaning only the person who has tinnitus can hear it. Someone with tinnitus often describes it as "ringing in the ears," but people report hearing all kinds of sounds: crickets, whooshing, pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing, even music.

For these reasons, doctors at the Musicians' Hearing center at the University of Pittsburgh Eye and Ear Institute want to make sure musicians know about some of the hearing protection measures available to them.

Doctors recommend earplugs or special earmuffs when you are exposed to dangerous levels of noise; they can keep your hearing from becoming damaged. Several different types of protective plugs and muffs are available in most pharmacies, hardware stores, and sporting goods stores.

However, most of these common types of hearing protection do not reduce noise levels equally for all frequencies. For musicians, this means the music they want to hear will sound distorted or muffled.

The earplugs created by Etymotic Research, Inc., can reduce sound levels by 20 decibels evenly across all frequencies. The music is softer, but it still sounds the way it would if you were not wearing the earplugs.

The plugs cost about $12, but the Eye and Ear Institute makes them available for $10 a pair. Doctors there say the plugs can help reduce the risk of hearing loss and tinnitus.

Some of the drawbacks of these plugs are that they are small and therefore easy to lose, and some kids may think they are not "cool." If you would like to learn more about the plugs directly from the manufacturer, visit their Web site at

Anonymous said...

To learn more, contact:

Catherine Palmer
Musicians' Hearing Center
University of Pittsburgh Eye and Ear Institute
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582
(412) 647-2030