The rock band Pink Floyd was known in its day for being loud. Legend was that at a concert in 1971, the noise was so bad that it killed the fish in a pond next to the stage. Probably more truthfully, the fish went belly up due to fans dancing in the pond, smoke bombs, and the giant inflatable octopus on the water (Pink Floyd was also known for eccentric decorations). But fish dying because of loudness is a better story.
Many rock stars have hearing loss due to the chronic and loud sound of their profession. Phil Collins, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and Pete Townsend of the Who are just some of the victims of their own success. The listening apparatus inside our ears is delicate, and can be injured or permanently damaged. We’ve all come home from rock concerts to lie down and hear ringing in our ears. That ringing is the sound of acoustic injury. Usually the ringing goes away, the hearing organ heals up. Sometimes the ringing doesn’t go away.
William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, has permanent ringing in his ears. This condition, called Tinnitis, started when a special effects explosion went off too close to his head. Since then he has been tormented by what he calls a “hiss-static,” night and day. Many military veterans also have Tinnitis from rifles, grenades, naval guns, and rocket launches. Besides pounding targets, these explosions also pound the ear drum, the delicate bones behind the drum that transmit sound, and the fragile nerves that receive the bones’ signals.
Kids are vulnerable to hearing loss too. Remember when the Saints won the Super Bowl? Remember Drew Brees holding his infant son, Baylen, and Baylen’s earphones? Baylen had them to protect his hearing from the roar of the crowd. Your kids need to be wearing those too, when they are hunting, mowing lawns, or going to rock concerts. Well, no kid who wants to be cool is wearing those to a show, but consider other protection: fewer concerts, more subtle ear plugs, quieter venues.
I married into a loud family, and they laughingly admit it. Thanksgiving can be deafening , with 50-plus Fournets packed into a house. It’s like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, except with pork roast instead of lamb, and conversation sprinkled with french instead of greek.
Part of the noise is due to hearing loss in my in-laws. They have to shout to be heard. My father-in-law ran a service station, flew airplanes, and hunted. His sons worked in the station and also hunted. And the sons went to plenty of rock concerts. All those roaring engines, shotguns, and guitars while growing up took a toll.
When considering hearing injury, we think of the really loud noises mentioned above- guns, explosions, amplifiers. But sustained moderate noise can cause hearing loss too. Just like too much running can lead to overuse injuries in knees and feet, chronic intense sounds can also hurt ears. Mowers, blenders, hair dryers, TV, car radios, and ipods all contribute to hearing loss. Even cell phones glued to your kids’ ears can be too much.
Some people are more susceptible to hearing loss than others. The Fournets have a family history of hearing loss, and the youngest son had some warning to start wearing headphones while hunting, woodworking, and mowing the lawn.
Are you worried about your child losing his hearing? Parents usually worry about hearing loss when their kid seems not to hear them: they shout and shout and get no answer. Fortunately this deafness is usually due to them tuning you out rather than true hearing loss. Kids get lots of hearing screening at school. Lafayette Parish schools screen in kindergarten, first grade, and every other year after that to eleventh grade. But if you are worried, your doctor can recommend testing at audiology and ENT offices.
Better still, worry about your kids hearing ahead of time and take action. Keep the phones, car radios, and MP3 players dialed down. Turn down (heck, turn off) the TV. Set limits on the number and intensity of concerts, and get them headphones for chronic noise makers. Then maybe they’ll hear you when you call them to do the dishes. Or not.