Hearing Loss Touches A Younger Generation
With Rise in Noise, More Seeking Help
By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Excerpts from Saturday, January 30, 1999; Page A01
Last month, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
Disorders gathered 100 representatives of medical, research, volunteer
and union organizations to talk about noise-induced hearing loss -- how
it occurs and how it can be prevented. The institute plans to launch a
public awareness campaign on the issue in the spring.
Prevention and education were an ongoing effort at the Environmental Protection
Agency until its Office of Noise Abatement was eliminated in 1982. That's
about the time a push to require decibel labels on lawn equipment gave
way to voluntary notices, which were "a miserable failure,"
in Kenneth Feith's view, and explain why instructions on lawn mowers or
leaf blowers virtually never advise hearing protection.
"I think we're going to see a population suffering from hearing loss
that will impair learning, impair our ability to carry out tasks,"
said Feith, an EPA senior scientist and policy adviser who headed the
Office of Noise Abatement.
Musicians may be getting the message faster than others, thanks to groups
Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers. The 10-year-old nonprofit
California organization was founded by Kathy Peck, 39, whose bass career
ended the morning after her band opened for Duran Duran. "I had ringing
in my ears that lasted three days. It felt like a bongo drum was in my
head." She sustained substantial irreversible damage.
Early on, HEAR gained visibility when Pete Townshend of the Who wrote
it a $10,000 check and publicly acknowledged his own hearing loss. It
soon will begin examining audiograms, demographic data and questionnaires
from thousands of patients seen at HEAR's clinic in San Francisco. Most
have been in their twenties and thirties.