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Subway Noise May Threaten Riders' Hearing

FRIDAY, June 19 -- Public mass transit, especially noisy subway systems, pose a threat to riders' hearing, U.S. researchers say.

Exposure to noise levels that exceed recommended limits could lead to noise-induced hearing loss among riders who are exposed to high noise levels for long periods of time, concluded Richard Neitzel, of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues.

In their study, the researchers evaluated the noise levels of public transit systems in New York City, including subways, buses, ferries, tramways and commuter railways. They found that subway cars and platforms had the highest continuous average and maximum noise levels, but that all transit systems showed potential for noise exposure.

"Engineering noise-control efforts, including increased transit infrastructure maintenance and the use of quieter equipment, should be given priority over use of hearing protection, which requires rider motivation and knowledge of how and when to wear it," the researchers wrote in their report, which appears online in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Posted: June 2009