We are now well into fall. That means pumpkin spiced lattes, Halloween decorations and piles and piles of fallen leaves. While brightly colored leaves are nice to look at, the tool most often used to control them, a gas-powered leaf blower, can do more harm than good, especially when it comes to your hearing.
Why Do People Put Their Ears at Risk?
While most people find it annoying when their neighbors break out the power tools, many of us still purchase these same tools to use ourselves. According to Erica walker, a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health, the reasons for this is simple – sound is far less irritating to its creator than to its recipient. This is because recipients of nuisance noise have no power over it.
Walker spent a year measuring sound levels at 400 locations around Boston. She found that in addition to leaf blowers, airplanes, buses, trains, loud talkers, barking dogs and blaring music all contributed to unsafe noise levels. She conducted a survey of 1,050 residents in neighborhoods around the city. Seventy-nine percent of respondents believed that no one cared if the noise bothered them.
Leaf Blower Stats
Quiet Communities, an organization dedicated to helping communities reduce health and environmental harm from noise and pollution, measured the sound from commercial grade gasoline blowers from a variety of distances. They found that even from 800 feet away, these devices produce harmful levels of noise.
One reason why more and more residents report issues with leaf blowers is that many homeowners are employing landscapers to take care of their yards rather than doing the work themselves. While before loud power tools were only heard on the weekends, neighbors are now exposed to loud sounds any day of the week.
Exposure to loud noises can be harmful to your health. In addition to damaging your hearing, exposure to noise can put you at risk of hypertension and heart disease. “We are blind to the fact it’s most likely causing significant health effects,” says Walker.
How to Protect Yourself
Some communities have put laws in place banning or restricting the use of leaf blowers while others have noise ordinances to try to protect their citizens.
Walker hopes that there will be a shift in how we regard noise, eventually treating it the same as other environmental pollutants.
To learn more about protecting your ears this fall or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, contact Georgia Hearing Institute today.