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13-Year-Old Scientist’s Research Shows Hand Dryers Can Hurt Kids’ Ears

Hand dryers are ubiquitous in public restrooms, the noise they make may be harmful to children’s ears.

According to research recently published in the Canadian journal Paediatrics & Child Health, And the study’s author can speak from personal experience.

 

“Sometimes after using hand dryers my ears would start ringing,” 13-year-old Nora Keegan from Calgary, Canada, tells NPR. “I also noticed that children would not want to use hand dryers, and they’d be covering their ears.”

So when she was 9, Nora decided to test the volume of hand dryers and find out if they were detrimental to children’s hearing. Nora’s research confirming her hypothesis was published in June.

Nora Keegan takes measurements in 2016 (Courtesy of the Keegan family)

Hand dryers are actually really, really loud, and especially at children’s heights since they’re close to where the air comes out,” says Nora, noting that children’s ears are more sensitive.

For the study, which was conducted between 2015 and 2017, she visited more than 40 public washrooms in Alberta, Canada. She used a professional decibel meter to measure sound levels of hand dryers from various heights and distances.

The young scientist then presented her research at a Calgary Youth Science Fair earlier this year.

She discovered that Xlerator hand dryers and two types of Dyson Airblade hand dryers posed the greatest threats to children’s hearing. These types all exceed 100 decibels — a volume that can lead to “learning disabilities, attention difficulties, and ruptured eardrums,” according to the study.

“My loudest measurement was 121 decibels from a Dyson Airblade model,” she says. “And this is not good because Health Canada doesn’t allow toys for children to be sold over 100 decibels, as they know that they can damage children’s hearing.”

In response to these results, Dyson confirmed to NPR in an email that an acoustics engineer would be meeting with Nora to discuss her research. Excel Dryer, the company that sells Xlerator hand dryers, did not respond to a request for comment before this story was published.

“While some other units operated at low sound levels, many units were louder at children’s ear heights than at adult ear heights,” the study concludes.

Nora hopes her findings will spark more research into the issue and eventually lead Canada to regulate noise levels for hand dryers. But for now, she’s taking a break and spending her summer like many 13-year-olds — at camp.

Update July 12: Excel Dryer, which owns Xlerator hand dryers, provided this statement after this story was originally published:

At Excel Dryer, we are committed to our customers.  User experience is very important to us, which is why all our high-speed, energy-efficient models come with adjustable sound and speed controls as a standard feature. This allows facilities the ability to choose the best settings for their restroom environments.

Click here to read our post on hand dryer v paper towel hygiene – It’s shockingly dirty!

 

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Source: https://www.npr.org/2019/07/09/739783918/hand-dryers-harm-childrens-hearing-canadian-study-shows


NIOSH Sound Level Meter App – How Noisy Is Your Work Environment?

iPhone displaying the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app.

Ever wonder how loud the noise really is and if it could be damaging your hearing? There’s an app for that!

Do you work in or near a noisy environment, such as a construction site, a popular restaurant, or a concert or sports venue?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed the NIOSH Sound Level Meter (SLM) app for iOS devices to help promote better hearing health and prevention efforts. You can download the free app(link is external) on iTunes.

NIOSH estimates that 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise levels each year. The SLM app can help you prevent permanent hearing loss caused by noise—a problem that can occur immediately or over time.

NIOSH developed the app after its researchers found that most sound meter apps either weren’t accurate enough or lacked features important for occupational noise measurement and monitoring. NIOSH then collaborated with an app developer, EA LAB, to create a new app for use at worksites. Although the app is designed for use at worksites, it also provides accurate noise measurement for everyday use, and can be downloaded and used by anyone in any location, including concerts, movie theaters, sports events, and even school cafeterias.

Using a mobile device’s built-in microphone or an external microphone, the NIOSH SLM app measures occupational noise exposure the way professional measuring instruments do. For example, NIOSH SLM reports the sound level in different weighted decibels (the unit of measure for sound). In addition, the app can save and share measurement data. NIOSH recommends using an external, calibrated microphone with any sound level app to increase accuracy.

The NIOSH SLM also includes information on preventing hearing loss, examples of noise levels and their risks to hearing, and a searchable database of devices to protect your hearing.

To see the app’s features, watch this video(link is external).

For more information, please visit:

Source: https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/have-you-heard/cdc-niosh-app

 

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Better Hearing Month is promoted by Audiology.org.

Did you know you can permanently lose your hearing from prolonged exposure to noise!

12 million Americans have hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise, noise-induced hearing loss.

May is National Protect Your Hearing Month. Green Guard and audiologists across the nation are encouraging Americans to protect their hearing by:

  1. Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85dB for 30 minutes or more.
  2. Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones.
  3. Walking away from loud noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the microscopic hair cells, or cilia, which are found in the inner ear. Cilia are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot be repaired or grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 (dB), such as concerts, sporting events, lawnmowers, fireworks, MP3 players at full volume, and more. A brief exposure to a very intense sound, such as a gun shot near the ear, can also damage your hearing.

An environment is too loud and considered dangerous if you:

  1. Have to shout over background noise to be heard.
  2. It is painful to your ears.
  3. It makes your ears ring during and after exposure.

If you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure, that is a sign of temporary and possibly permanent hearing damage.

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Hearing loss not only affects your ability to understand speech but it also has a negative impact on your social and emotional well-being. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually over time, and people don’t often realize they are changing the way they live to make up for the disability.

 

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If you suspect you may have hearing loss, make an appointment to see an audiologist. He or she will perform a hearing test to determine the type and severity of hearing loss you may have.

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