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30 minutes in New York subway can damage the hearing

Riding the New York subway may be detrimental to the hearing. Millions of people taking the subway each day put their hearing at risk. Noise levels from the trains reach as high as 106 dB.

30 minutes in New York subway can damage the hearing

According to a study published by Columbia University in New York City, as little as 30 minutes in the New York subway may result in hearing loss.

The study indicated that noise levels in the subway at times are significantly above the 85 dB maximum recommended levels by the United Nations World Health Organization, WHO, and the United States Environmental Protections Agency, EPA.

Average noise levels of 94 dB were recorded on the platform with peak levels repeatedly at 106 dB. Inside the train cars the noise was even louder. According to WHO and EPA, such noise levels are unsafe when sustained for more than 30 seconds.

Urban life hard on hearing

According to Professor Robyn Gershon, the head of the study, listening to an MP3 player in the subway is extremely damaging. In order to hear the music over the surrounding noise, the volume on the player must be turned up high, often resulting in noise levels of 85 – 90 dB.

„If a rider is exposed to other high noise-level activities such as a personal listening device, the potential for hearing loss is even greater“, she told the Journal of Urban Health. „Noise exposure and noise induced hearing loss is a global health problem of significant magnitude, especially in urban settings.”

Earplugs instead of MP3 players

In order to reduce the risk of hearing damage Robyn Gershon recommended that you protect your ears with earplugs or other hearing protection. She also advised commuters to move to the front end of the platform rather than the middle or the rear where the roar of the incoming train is the loudest.

The New York subway is the longest and second oldest subway in the USA with 4 million riders daily.

Souces: Journal of Urban Health, published by the New York Academy of Medicine, Sept.2006; ;, 12.10.2006

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