The answer is a resounding YES. But can you really do such serious damage in just a quick commute? Again, yes. Actually, hearing loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes in the NYC subway, according to a study conducted by Columbia University.
Both the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) recommend that in a 24-hour period, the average noise level a person is exposed to should not exceed 70 dB. However, the average noise levels measured across all forms of NYC public transit exceeded this value, with the MTA subway being the worst offender.
The noise on subway platforms can pose a serious threat, with about half of the maximum noise levels measured hitting 90 dB or above, and the highest reaching 102.1 dB. While the noise inside of subway cars measured at slightly lower levels, the prevalence of earbuds and headphones—with music often turned up in order to be heard above the train noise—can actually put additional strain on ear drums.
Given that the NYC subway sees an average 5.5 million riders per day, it seems an astounding number of us might encounter hearing loss in the future.
The good news is that hearing loss from subway and bus noise can be prevented by wearing ear plugs—one of the study’s recommendations. That’s precisely the inspiration behind a campaign recently launched by Floating Piano Factory (FPF). Over the next few weeks, FPF technicians will be passing out 1000 free pairs of earplugs.
“As a piano tuner and musician, I have to be conscious of damaging my ears,” says Janney, lead technician at FPF and committed earplug user. “But nobody benefits from losing their hearing. It would be great to help raise awareness of the issue.”
You can find Eathan, Mike, and Isaac—all piano technicians with FPF—handing out small envelopes of free earplugs throughout the NYC public transit system as they travel between piano tunings. As a bonus, the envelopes are marked with a 10% off discount code for tuning services.
What do you think of this campaign? Did you receive one of the envelopes? Share your story on the FPF facebook page, or via twitter or email (floatingpiano [at] gmail [dot] com).