December 14, 2015 7:46 pm
Updated: December 18, 2015 2:05 am

Merry… what?! Why the holidays could be harming your hearing

WATCH ABOVE: An update on the St. Albert family seeking provincial coverage for their baby formula and a story on noise in stores. Su-Ling Goh reports.


EDMONTON – All the shopping and socializing at this time of year can be enough to give you a headache, but could it actually be damaging your hearing?

On top of all the voices in busy stores and restaurants, many businesses pump up the music volume. So, when Global News received an email from a viewer concerned about noise levels, we decided to do an (admittedly unscientific) investigation.

Using a sound level meter and a smartphone app, we measured the decibel levels in various areas of an Edmonton mall with our viewer, Penny Jones.

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“As a consumer, I’m faced with a barrage of noise all the time, no matter where I go,” said the 66-year-old. “In some places, you can’t even hear the cashier across the register.

“There’s a difference between background noise and in-your-face noise.”

The loudest part of the mall’s food court measured about 76 decibels. The noisiest store we found, a women’s clothing store, was also roughly 76 dB.

Audiologist Kathleen Jones (no relation to Penny) says those are acceptable noise levels. But she notes we did our measurements on a weekday afternoon – the mall would likely be louder on a weekend. Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety limit for an eight-hour shift is 85 dB.

“So (the noise level) can be a concern,” said Kathleen Jones, “especially because the people that are working in those areas are there much longer than people coming and going.”

Hearing loss is permanent – we can’t regenerate the hair cells in our inner ears. That’s why seniors tend to have more sensitive ears.

“As we age, our hearing tends to decline. And if you add more noise exposure to that, it’s cumulative,” explained the audiologist. “So it’s not good for our ears, and they could be more susceptible to noise damage.”

Penny has complained about music levels in businesses in the past. She says her concerns have largely been shrugged off by management, and she’s worried about the employees.

“I can go and get out of here when my ears are ringing, and I can settle down and come back again,” said Penny, “but (the employees) can’t.”

An Occupational Health and Safety representative emailed Global News this statement:

Employers in Alberta are responsible for minimizing the noise hazard at workplaces for employees and must adhere to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation. More information about the OHS legislation can be found here

It is often difficult for stores and restaurants to find a sound level that is acceptable to all customers; however, store management can help customers address such concerns. We invite you to first contact store management and, if necessary, property management to discuss your concerns about stores and restaurants that do not seem to be adhering to acceptable music levels.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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