Autumn Traditions … And Their Risks

For many, autumn is the most exquisite time of the year. The foliage, football, getting the sweaters back out, a sense of things slowing down after the busy summer. And then there’s the wide variety of pumpkin-spiced foodstuffs (well, maybe pumpkin spice coffee isn’t too high on that many lists).

But some of those traditions can come at a cost to one’s hearing.

Take football, for instance. A trip to the alma mater for a game — much less a road trip to see an NFL game — can actually mean exposure to excessive noise. It’s cute when they set up a decibel meter in the stands so TV analysts can marvel at the crowd getting up above 100 decibels (sometimes well above).

Only problem is that this means the crowd is being exposed to sound over 100 decibels — which is far above the 70 that can cause ear damage. This is especially problematic for children, since their narrower ear canals enhance the effects of excessive noise.

Another ritual of the season is cleaning up the yard and prepping it for winter. This can include getting the leaf blower, chainsaw, or some other small engine-driven device out of the garage. That too means exposure to sound over 100 decibels.

Deer, geese, or any other kind of hunting with rifle or shotgun is obviously problematic too — with noise upwards of 130 decibels.

The only real solution to any seasonal activity that includes noise exposure is to use the best ear protection possible. Protective earmuffs are the most effective. But even inexpensive foam earplugs will help some and decrease exposure, while the best brands can cut 30 decibels off of exposure levels.