There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

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The New Year’s tradition of making resolutions and reflecting on the positive changes we want to make in our lives is an excellent reason to consider how we might extend to our homes and families the culture of safety we develop in our workplaces. Most employers have a vested interest in encouraging their workers to not only practice off-the-job safety, but carry the habits home to their family members as well. This is because home can be a dangerous place at times. The NSC has some very compelling data demonstrating that people are actually safer at work than at home. And, just like at work, nearly all the injuries encountered around the house—or during any off-the-job activity—are completely preventable. 

Hearing loss and tinnitus often take a back seat to traumatic injury and accidents. It is for this reason that many off-the-job risks to hearing are so often overlooked. Are we always aware of noise risks off the job? How many of us continue to protect our hearing off the job the way we do at work? Do we provide hearing protection for our family members the way our employers do for us? Do we set appropriate examples for other family members? There are as many opportunities to protect our hearing as there are opportunities to damage it. Unlike at work, however, many off-the-job risks to hearing are seasonal, so we simply aren’t thinking about them on a daily basis. Let’s take a look at some obvious and not-so-obvious risks: 
  • Power tools used for home renovation and workshop projects. (This observation could also extend to shop and vocational classrooms. Does the instructor include hearing protection in his or her safety lesson?)
  • Hunting and shooting sports, in the field as well as at the range.
  • Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, snow throwers, etc.
  • Household appliances (for example, my blender is loud enough at ear level that I would be required to wear hearing protection if I were using it at work).
  • Personal music listening (especially in the car and using earbud-type earphones).
  • Playing in musical ensembles, from garage bands to marching bands, stage bands, and drum lines at school, and even the community orchestra.
  • Attendance at concerts, nightclubs, and some restaurants. Even attending services at some churches can pose a risk to your hearing.
  • Attendance at sporting events (e.g., auto racing, indoor basketball games, and college- and professional-level arena sports like football and soccer).
  • Motorcycling and snowmobiling.
  • Many group aerobics or Zumba® classes.
  • Some children’s toys.
 On the topic of children, prevention of hearing loss in those under 18 years of age is even more important than for an adult. Audiologists consider that hearing loss in children is established at a level that is 10 decibels quieter than for an adult. This is because hearing is so important for a child’s speech and language development, educational progress, and social maturation, among other things. If, as a parent, guardian, caretaker, educator, or coach of children, you are concerned that an activity or environment seems too loud for you, it is most likely certainly too loud for a child. Just like in the workplace, you can provide “engineering controls” (reduce the level of noise by modifying the noise source, enclosing it, or erecting a barrier around it), “administrative controls” (remove the child—and yourself—from the noisy activity for a quiet and restful period of time), and provide hearing protection—ear muffs or earplugs —appropriate to the situation.
 
Many of the products used in the workplace to protect hearing are also available for off-the-job use. There are ear muffs, several of which offer special features to enhance the safety and/or enjoyment of an off-the-job activity. For instance, there are ear muffs that allow the use of MP3 players and other personal listening devices or use microphones to allow you stay in touch with what’s going on around you while still protecting your hearing from loud sounds like gun shots and other impact noise. Earplugs are also available in many different shapes, sizes, materials, and levels of attenuation.
 
By the way, swim plugs—those designed primarily for keeping water out of the ear canal as opposed to attenuating noise—are made for activities on the surface of the water. One should never dive more than a foot or two below the surface while wearing swim plugs. Negative pressure in the ear canal may damage the ear drum.
 
Finally, remember that exercise and a healthful diet can help protect your hearing as well as contribute to your overall well-being. A person who is healthy and fit is not only less prone to injury, they also tend to be more aware of the risks that can lead to poor health and accidents, both on and off the job, and to family, friends, and co-workers, as well as to themselves. Just remember that prevention of hearing loss is as important off-the job as it is at work. Bring that culture of safety and health at work home for the New Year. 

 

Blog Author:  Dr. Robert Ghent  
Blog Catagories:  tinnitus  safety  resolutions  noise  New Year's  house  home  Hearing Loss  family  

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