When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery. Efforts to control noise should focus on materials and equipment that provide a quieter environment, researchers at the University of Toronto suggest. Hearing protection while using public transport should also be promoted.

Dr. Vincent Lin, the corresponding author said: "This study is the first to look at and quantify the amount of noise people are exposed to during their daily commute, specifically on the Toronto Transit System. We now are starting to understand that chronic excessive leads to significant systemic pathology, such as depression, anxiety, increased risk of chronic diseases and increased accident risk. Short, intense noise exposure has been demonstrated to be as injurious as longer, less intense noise exposure."

Dr Lin said: "We were surprised at the overall average noise exposure commuters experience on a daily basis, especially the peak noise intensity not only on trains but also on buses. Planners need to be more considerate of noise exposure in future planning of public spaces and public transit routes. Toronto in particular, as the transit network expands, needs to consider ways to reduce noise exposure as a preventative measure for future health risks."

Measuring noise exposure on public (subways, trams and buses) and private (cars, bike, walking) transport in Toronto, the researchers found that while noise on average was within the recommended levels of safe exposure, bursts of on both public and private modes of transportation could still place individuals at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

According to thresholds recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to 114 A-weighted decibels (dBA) for longer than four seconds, exposure to 117dBA for longer than two seconds and exposure to 120 dBA for longer than 20 seconds may put people at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. A-weighted decibels express the relative loudness of sounds experienced by the human ear; taking into account that sensitivity to noise differs depending on noise frequency. Peak noise levels in dBa across both public and personal transport exceeded the EPA recommended thresholds. The average noise levels by bike were greater than any level caused by modes of public transit.

To measure noise exposure, the researchers used noise dosimeters, which they carried on their shirt collars about two inches away from their ears. The researchers collected 210 measurements in total, comparing the noise on subways, buses, and streetcars, while driving a car, cycling, and walking. They measured in-vehicle noise and outside or boarding platform noise for all modes of private and public transportation.

The authors found that 19.9% of the loudest noises (peak noise) measured on the subway were greater than 114 dBA, while 20% of the loudest noises inside streetcars were greater than 120 dBA. 85% of peak noise measurements from bus platforms were greater than 114 dBA, while 54% were greater than 120 dBA. All peak noise exposures while riding a bike exceeded 117 dBA, with 85% being greater than 120 dBA.

When the authors extrapolated the EPA recommended noise thresholds for an average Toronto commuter who uses public transport, the recommended level of noise exposure was exceeded in 9% of subway, 12% of bus, and 14% of biking measurements but not when using streetcars, cars or when walking.

The authors caution that the number of measurements taken for individual modes of transport is relatively low and that the cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect. Further studies are needed to investigate other factors that may contribute to exposure such as use of music players and lengthy transit times.

Explore further: White noise after loud noise prevents hearing deficits in mice

More information: Noise exposure while commuting in Toronto - a study of personal and public transportation in Toronto, Yao et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery 2017 , DOI: 10.1186/s40463-017-0239-6

Related Stories

White noise after loud noise prevents hearing deficits in mice

June 5, 2017
Mild hearing loss from exposure to less than one hour of loud noise leads to a reorganization of circuits in a key midbrain structure of the auditory system in mice, finds new research published in The Journal of Neuroscience. ...

Guard against hearing loss from fireworks

July 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Watching a fireworks display can be a treat for your eyes, but the noise can be a threat to your ears.

Is your hearing at risk? Protect your ears

June 6, 2016
Hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process. But noise-induced hearing loss is on the rise.

No evidence of hidden hearing loss from common recreational noise: study

September 26, 2017
Exposure to loud noises during common recreational activities is widely cited as a cause of "hidden hearing loss." A new study of young adults, however, finds that while hearing is temporarily affected after attending a loud ...

Do you hear what I hear? Noise exposure surrounds us

December 21, 2011
Nine out of 10 city dwellers may have enough harmful noise exposure to risk hearing loss, and most of that exposure comes from leisure activities.

Traffic noise increases the risk of heart attack

July 8, 2016
Your risk of heart attack increases with the amount of traffic noise to which you are exposed. The increase in risk - though slight - is greatest with road and rail traffic noise, less with aircraft noise. Such are the conclusions ...

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.