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April 04, 2005

Tube noise could damage hearing

The noise from the trains in the London Underground is so loud on some stretches that they could damage people's hearing, warns expert. He recommends that passengers use earplugs.

It is no wonder that travelers on the London Underground sometimes feel like holding their ears. An investigation by BBC found noise levels louder than a pneumatic drill.

"Commuters who regularly used the Tube over several years could find their hearing deteriorating to the level of someone 20 years older than them" said Professor Deepak Prasher, who carried out the investigation.

Professor Prasher, head of the audiology unit at University College London, took the measurements on four Victoria Line journeys. He recorded average noise levels of 88-89 dB.

"I am shocked by the levels that we actually recorded - they were higher than I thought. They were peaking at 118db, which is quite horrendous. It's the equivalent of a big jackhammer going, or a jet engine taking off in the distance", the British professor told BBC.

In the worst instances, the loud noise in the Underground can damage your hearing.

"Although the journey times for most people are going to be short, this is a cumulative damage. If you regularly commute and use that line, then you need to seriously think about some form of ear protection", warned Prasher.

The study also measured the effect of the noise on a group of students immediately after traveling on the Underground. Their hearing was weakened, but returned to normal a short time later.

A train driver, who always uses ear protection at work, told BBC:

"I would advise passengers to do the same. It really is very noisy indeed, and they shouldn't put their hearing at risk."

Health and Safety rules state employers should provide ear protection for people exposed to average levels of 85dB over an eight-hour period.

Source: BBC News,, 15.07.2004

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