Opinion: Hearing is Too Often Abandoned

Brady Rivkin

Disclaimer: This article and any other opinion articles published by the Daniel Wright Voice are not endorsed by the Daniel Wright Junior High School, nor do they reflect the views of the school. These articles are solely the opinions of the students at the school.

At a time when noise research has encouraged people to protect their hearing, one could hope that it is common practice to do so at large gatherings. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and although the current Lake County Public Nuisance Ordinance and the Cook County Environmental Control Ordinance outlaw noise that is detrimental to health, the laws are loosely enforced and event planners don’t tend to obey the law when applied by someone at the event. This is likely due to the opinions of the people at the gatherings because in the moment, they do not realize what damage they are posing to their ears and are so engrossed in the sound that they do not have the initiative to ask for the volume to be turned down. Even if this impediment is avoided, the volume goes down very little to be noticeable, and sometimes, the request is not even remotely considered. With this knowledge of the hearing loss, state and local legislatures must not falter in creating successful regulation of the noise level at parties.

At a party I was once invited to, I had to take most of the time out of the room recovering from the noise, but while I was in the party room, I took measurements of the noise with Decibel 10th and estimated the dimensions of the room at about sixty feet by sixty feet. In the back of the room, about forty feet from the speakers, the average decibel level was measured at above 95. In the middle of the room, the average was above 100 decibels and the maximum was 109.3, but what made this measurement most astounding was that it was made from about double the distance from the speakers that most of the people were dancing. This also was during a period of less noise in which people were walking around and getting food, so it was nothing compared to the times when music blasted even louder and people were shouting. This extreme noise concentrated in such a small room came close to the noise level in the United Center during hockey games, likely because the United Center is so large and the party room was very small for such loud noise. After gathering the measurements, I was able to conclude that the noise level was easily enough to cause hearing damage over the nearly 4 hours the party lasted, so I decided to ask for the noise level to be turned down. The response I was given? Flat refusal. A blunt “no”, even after I explained the hearing damage problem. If the noise is out of control like this and people refuse to act, many in America will face the effects of the noise and it will be calamitous.

Because many people have gone to loud gatherings and experienced the extreme noise without having immediate or even relatively noticeable hearing damage, they are liable to believe that it is impossible to sustain damage from the decibel levels at parties. This is untrue, for according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is a United States federal agency and a part of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the lowest damaging decibel level is 85, for which one can be exposed to for eight hours. In fact, workers are not allowed to perform their services in a place in which they can hear 85 decibels or higher noise for more than eight hours. For each 3-decibel increase from 85, the exposure time is reduced by half. Using this formula, one can determine that a two-hour party should be no louder than an average of 91 decibels. This almost never happens, and it could lead to widespread hearing loss in the future.

The Lake County Public Nuisance Ordinance states, in one section, that “…the County Board finds that excessively loud amplification systems…operating at any time of the day or night…tend to have a detrimental effect on the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Lake County, Illinois, specifically for the reasons that such noise tends to…cause noise pollution…, and therefore hereby declares excessive noise to be a public nuisance”(lakecountyil.gov), and this means that any noise that poses health risks because of the noise level and pollution is considered a nuisance. Although this outlaws unhealthy noise, it is vague, and the Cook County Environmental Control Ordinance expresses it better. It states, “No person owning, or in possession or control of any building or premises, shall… permit the use of the same, or rent the same to be used… for any purpose of pleasure or recreation, if such use shall… be dangerous or detrimental to health”(cookcountyil.gov). This is, in simpler terms, that nobody that owns property can let it be used for some activity that involves noise loud enough that it poses health risks. Applying this law to the fact that the party I was at was in Northbrook, which is in Cook County, one can determine that the restaurant is held accountable for the noise risk and the party planner must then obey the law to be allowed to rent the restaurant. In any situation in Lake and Cook County, the laws apply and one can be sure that damaging noise is illegal.

Having been able to access the data on noise levels and hearing, state and local legislatures have had an opportunity to pass completely adequate regulations and have not done so. Since the regulations only need to be perfected, they will take time to be revised, so in the meantime, one can use earplugs and work with others to make environments less deafening. If health is a priority, reform will be brought about, and the trend in hearing loss will be stopped in its tracks.

Decibel 10th has not been verified as credible, and the measurements are very likely to be inaccurate. However, because the measurements were averaging over ten decibels of the level that causes hearing damage after two hours, it can be derived that the noise level in the room could cause damage.