Following is a letter I sent to my YMCA
Yesterday, after finishing my workout, I was walking by the
registration desk and noticed an indoor soccer game in the gym.
I looked through the window and saw a large number of kids about
12 years old and younger, of both sexes, many ethnic backgrounds,
and all sizes. They seemed to be having a great time, and I
couldn't help wondering why so many children of mixed ethnic
backgrounds can play well together only to turn into adults who
cannot. It is to the credit of the YMCA in Brighton that this
thought crosses my mind often when I'm there.
As I watched, I began to wonder about the ominous thunder I was
hearing. Of course, it wasn't thunder, and I decided to open
the gym door and see just how loud the music coming from inside
It was extremely loud. Of course, that is the trend these days.
The last Celtics game I attend (literally, the last), I had to
wear 30dB ear plugs because of the music. The basketball game
was a sideshow.
Anyway, as I stood there watching the soccer game, I could not
ignore the irony of kids engaging in healthy exercise for their
bodies while the sound system was damaging their hearing.
That same irony strikes me when I work out on the bikes in the
quiet part of the exercise room. Someone takes one of the other
bikes or ellipticals, begins working out, and turns the listening
equipment on his/her head up to deafening levels. The overflow
is so loud that the person's head sounds like a beehive. It
creates quite a disturbing racket. Well, if it's disturbing to
someone three to ten feet away (once I thought one of the room
speakers was on), it has to be very damaging to its user. What
can a person be thinking who is working so hard to keep his/her
body fit while destroying that same body's hearing?
This is exactly what those kids in the soccer game are doing-with
Surely you are aware of the recent research and concern over
children and young people damaging their hearing with loud music.
If not, here is a sample from yesterday's Boston Globe. I beg
you to think about this issue and turn down the music in the gym
while the kids are playing soccer. Otherwise you are as surely
helping damage one part of their bodies while building others.
Is that what you want?
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Students advised to tone it down
By Michael Levenson and April Simpson, Globe Staff
The audiologist walked through the packed lunchroom, holding a
wandlike instrument near the 200 middle school students laughing,
shrieking, and drumming on the tables.
This was an experiment to test just how loud is loud during lunch
hour at Smith Leadership Academy in Dorchester. The results
surprised even the doctor, the director of audiology at the
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Her meter showed 85 to 90 decibels, the equivalent of a gaspowered
lawnmower held at arms' length. At that level, the federal
government would limit exposure to eight hours or fewer in a
workplace, said the audiologist, Sharon G. Kujawa.
The experiment Thursday underscored a growing debate in the
scientific community about whether children are at greater risk
for hearing loss because of their constant exposure to loud
sounds, not only in the lunchroom but any place where they listen
to music on headphones.
There are conflicting studies on whether children are losing
their hearing earlier in adulthood than in past generations, but
there are enough warning signs that Kujawa and teachers want the
students to pipe down and turn down the music.
"The risk is very real, so we shouldn't underestimate that,"
said Kujawa, who is also an associate professor of otology and
laryngology at Harvard Medical School. "We don't want to wait
to get the evidence, because once that happens, that's it. It's
Doctors have long known that children can damage their hearing
through a single exposure to a deafening noise, such as a
firecracker, or repeated exposure to loud sounds, such as music
from a stereo. But their concern has grown in recent years as
more children listen to music through headphones, which bring
the sound even closer to the fragile hair cells of the inner
ear. Once those cells, which transform sound into electrochemical
signals to the brain, are damaged, they can't be regrown or
repaired through surgery, Kujawa said.
"We have very poor ways of dealing with the consequences," Kujawa
said. "The very best we can do is educate people, so we can
prevent it at the front end."
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