Bring the earplugs for you, your children for F1 race

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Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG Petronas rounds Turn 12 at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday November 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Don’t forget this sound advice if you are heading out to F1 this weekend with the kids.

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG Petronas rounds Turn 12 at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday November 2, 2014.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG Petronas rounds Turn 12 at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday November 2, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bring your earplugs for F1’s loud events

The roar of the Formula One race cars, that’s exciting, right? But if you’re headed to the track with your family, that might not be the best thing for ears young and old.

Much has been written about the quieter engines of this year’s cars, going from about 145 decibels to 134 decibels. Audiologist Dr. Heather M. Lamberth of Austin Regional Clinic explains what those

numbers mean to you and your family’s ears. A rock concert is similar to a chainsaw at about 110 decibels. That means after about two minutes you’ve damaged the hair cells in your ear’s cochlea that allow you to hear. Immediate damage happens at about 140, similar to a jet engine taking off or an F1 race car. The damage is permanent and cumulative, Lamberth says. You’re born with a certain number of cochlear hair cells, and they don’t grow back.

Afterward, your ears might feel full or be ringing. That ringing might go away or might not. For young children, the worry is that hearing loss can affect communication development and their ability to succeed in school.

The best thing to do is to wear earplugs. If your family goes to concerts or loud events a lot, you might want earplugs that are fitted to you that filter out the noise so you can still have a conversation; it’s just not as loud.

If you’re only occasionally at a loud event, pick up some earplugs at a drugstore. Look for the Noise Reduction Rating and pick the highest one you can get. Usually that will be between a 28 to 35 decibel reduction.

Even though Lamberth is concerned about the loudness of F1 or a concert, it’s what our kids are doing every day that might be why researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found a 31 percent increase in hearing loss for preteens and teens ages 12-19 from 1988-1994 compared with 2005-2006. You know that smartphone and its ear buds that seem to be permanently attached to your teen and preteen? Those personal listening devices could be to blame. Lamberth recommends your child listen to the iPod at 50 percent or less of the maximum volume. Maximum volume would be about 115 decibels. As you walk by your child, you should not be able to hear her music.

If you think your child has had some hearing loss, isn’t responding to loud noise or has had frequent ear infections, get her hearing checked.

And just in case you wanted to know, loud yelling at the teenager is only 80-90 decibels, and they can go hours listening to that without hurting their ears or getting the message.


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