Nine out of 10 city dwellers may be at risk of hearing loss resulting from harmful noise exposure, that mainly comes from leisure activities, says a new study.
Historically, loud workplaces were blamed for harmful noise levels.
But researchers at the University of Michigan found that noise from MP3 players and stereo use has eclipsed loud work environments, said Rick Neitzel, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health and the Risk Science Center.
This proved true even though MP3 player and stereo listening were just a small fraction of each person's total annual noise exposure.
Neitzel said he was surprised by the findings. As an occupational hygienist, he expected regular users of trains and buses along with work-related activities to be the chief culprits in excessive noise exposure.
They found that one in 10 transit users had noise exposures exceeding the recommended limits from transit use alone. But when they estimated the total annual exposure from all sources, 90 percent of transit users and 87 percent of nonusers exceeded the recommended limits, primarily due to MP3 and stereo usage.
"That two out of three people get the majority of noise exposure from music is pretty striking," Neitzel said.
"I've always viewed the workplace as a primary risk for noise exposure. But this would suggest that just focusing our efforts on the workplace isn't enough, since there's lots of noise exposure happening elsewhere," he stated.
The implications are startling, said Neitzel.
"I do think it's a serious problem, there aren't really any other experiences where we would tolerate having nine out of 10 people exposed at a level we know is hazardous. We certainly wouldn't tolerate this with another agent, such as something that caused cancer or chronic disease. Yet for some reason we do for noise," he added.