September 1, 2006
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Madison: America’s elementary and secondary schools have won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for neglecting to teach hearing health–with devastating consequences. America’s schools are failing to educate the nation’s schoolchildren about the plague of noise.
A survey published in the Journal of Educational Audiology found that 97 percent of 273 third graders had been exposed to hazardous sound levels, from such sources as real or toy firearms, attending auto races, personal stereo systems, loud televisions, loud toys, snowmobiles, or jet skis. Only 5 percent of students used hearing protection while engaging in these dangerous activities.
The National Institute of Health, in a 1990 document, “Noise and Hearing Loss,” noted that more than 12 percent of all children in the United States between ages 6 and 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. The NIH states that “a mild high-frequency hearing loss in a 16 year-old school student may well deteriorate to a debilitating degree in later life.” Additionally, studies indicate that children with high frequency hearing loss have more behavioral problems than their classmates with normal hearing.
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, commented that “schools have the responsibility to teach students about proper health practices–including hearing health. Education about the health effects of noise pollution and methods for self-protection should be a part of every school’s health education curriculum.”
Rueter commented that schools fail to teach hearing health because of the lack of public awareness of the dangers of excessive sound. “This is a very noisy society,” he stated. “Indeed, many schools themselves are extremely noisy. I suppose it’s no surprise that the great majority of schools aren’t teaching hearing conservation.”
Fortunately, there is no shortage of appropriate educational material on hearing health. “There’s the ‘Dangerous Decibels’ health education program developed by the Oregon Hearing Research Center,” said Rueter. “There’s the ‘Know Noise” lesson plans distributed by the Sight and Hearing Association of St. Paul, Minnesota. The House Ear Institute in Los Angeles has developed ‘HIP Talk,’ which teaches about environmental noise, hazardous sounds, and hearing protection. The resources for schools are there.”
Rueter concluded, “We count on our schools to teach about the hazards of drugs, smoking, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s time our schools taught about the hazards of noise.”
Noise Free America is a national citizens organization opposed to noise pollution. Its web site is http://noisefree.org. Past “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include Governor Gray Davis, Governor Jesse Ventura, and the Massachusetts Department of Education.