Airbags save lives, damage hearing

An airbag can save your life in a car accident, but it may also cost you your hearing. Among people in accidents with airbags deploying, 17 percent suffer permanent hearing loss, according to an American study.

Seventeen percent of people close to a deploying airbag suffer hearing loss, according to the study prepared by Richard Price, a hearing specialist and consultant. The study examined only airbag deployments in American makes of cars, which are generally equipped with larger and more powerful airbags than European and Japanese cars.

?The noise of airbags deploying can be intense enough to damage hearing,? said Price, who examined the effect of airbag deployment on hearing. Airbags inflate extremely fast and at noise levels comparable to an airplane at take-off. This kind of impulse noise is considered the most hazardous for hearing, Price pointed out.

Computer modeling predicting effect on hearing

Richard Price partly based his study of the effects of airbag deployment on hearing by employing a computer simulation of the ear's reaction to intense noise. The model is able to correctly predict the hearing loss outcome with 95 percent certainty in a given situation.

Price found it encouraging that the auto industry is now using the same computer model in the development of airbags able to prevent bodily injury in car accidents without damaging hearing.

Source: G. Richard Price: ?Impulse Noise ? Hearing Conservation's Poison Gas?. Paper presented at the 32nd annual conference of the National Hearing Conservation Association.

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