I blame Tom Petty. Three and half hours of his greatest hits kept me awake as I commuted each weekend for my job last year. But now, I swear, I’m half deaf.
Well, if it turns out I do have noise-induced hearing loss (I just booked an audiogram to find out), I’m far from alone. Besides the approximately 28 million “ordinary” Americans who suffer from hearing loss, there’s an impressive bevy of celebs who can’t hear all that well, either.
In honor of the 18th annual International Noise Awareness Day, here are some some of their stories (and, yes, these examples are all men; men are more likely to suffer from hearing loss than women). Read on for some ways to avoid hearing loss yourself.
The Who guitarist says he lost all the hearing in one ear when Keith Moon blew up his drum set during a concert in the 1960s and damaged the other ear blasting playbacks in the studio. If, as one study reported, 72% of teens reported temporary hearing loss after just one three-hour concert, you can imagine the havoc nearly 50 years of rocking has had on Townshend’s hearing.
A live concert registers somewhere in the 110 to 120 decibel range (as does a chain saw and an ambulance siren, to give you an ear-piercing comparison), well above the 85 decibel safe range cutoff, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Check out the CDC’s cool Noise Meter.) In the rock concert decibel range, the recommended safe listening time is a mere 2 minutes or less before it starts getting dangerous!
Remember former president Bill Clinton’s saxophone playing—and all of those helicopter rides and applauding convention crowds? It’s no wonder he has some hearing loss. In 1997, during his second term in the White House, Clinton was fitted with hearing aids. He’s one of the lucky ones. Research shows that just 1 in 7 people with hearing loss use hearing aids. That’s bad news because untreated hearing loss has also been associated with diabetes and mental decline.
Captain Kirk may have been able to fight off Klingons, but actor William Shatner has had a harder time dealing with tinnitus—which is a kind of ringing in the ears—since a prop explosion on the set of Star Trek. Tinnitus affects 50 million people in the United States, according to the Center for Hearing and Communication.
Other famous people with hearing loss include Chris Martin, will.i.am, Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Wilson, Phil Collins and George Martin, as well as Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who have tinnitus.
To hear just how awful tinnitus can be, check out the high-pitched samples at The American Tinnitus Association site. They aren’t kidding when they tell you to turn down the volume on your computer when you listen. Research continues into finding a cure for the annoying problem.
Here are 3 simple ways to safeguard your hearing:
1. Limit your noise exposure. The subway train rushing by, the construction site next door, even riding in the car with the top down can all expose you to dangerous decibel levels (anything above 85).
2. Turn down your MP3 player (below the half volume mark) and you can safely listen for hours, research shows. But the louder you play the music, the less time you can safely listen without damaging your hearing. Trade your earbuds for headphones (not the noise cancelling kind), and you can listen longer, too.
3. Wear ear protection when you’re mowing the lawn, using a chain saw, shooting skeet, or at work if your environment is noisy. Earmuffs and plugs really can help block the sound so that it falls into a safer decibel range. And, yes, even covering your ears when the fire truck goes by helps protect the little hair cells and auditory nerve in your ears.
As for me, I’m no longer cranking “American Girl” so high that my husband can hear me coming home from three blocks away.