NIH News Release
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 28, 1999
For Hearing Loss and Campaign
Information Contact:
Marin P. Allen or Gail Blatt
(301) 496-7243

For Workplace Hearing Loss Contact:
Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519

WISE EARS! Warns About Hearing Loss Over the 4th!

Cannons. Skyrockets. Cherry bombs. Stock car races. Marching bands. NOISE, NOISE, NOISE. Since Americans first celebrated their freedom in 1776, July 4th has been one of the truly fun family days, but also one of the NOISIEST.

As you strike up the band and hear bombs bursting in air, please remember to protect your hearing, pleads the WISE EARS! coalition, a national alliance of groups, government agencies, and private organizations committed to protecting hearing. The coalition is sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible damage from noise, and thirty million are exposed to dangerous levels of noise each day, prompting NIDCD Director James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., to emphasize, "It is alarming that Americans are losing their hearing at a younger age. The greatest increase occurs for people 45 to 64 years old. This is almost 20 years younger than we would expect. Noise exposure appears to be the culprit. The 4th of July is a perfect time to avert this completely preventable hearing loss."

"While 4th of July celebrations often mean a day away from work for many Americans, we can't forget that work-related hearing loss is the most common occupational disease in the U.S.," said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. "We hope this campaign will help make workers, employers, and others realize that hearing loss is not an inevitable consequence of earning a living."

The WISE EARS! campaign was developed to increase public awareness. Workers, employers, health professionals, teachers, parents, children, unions, industry, and the general public need to know that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. The members of WISE EARS! want people to understand that we are all at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing can be saved by using hearing protection devices in the workplace and at home.

The WISE EARS! coalition was formed by NIDCD in collaboration with NIOSH and includes support from almost 50 different organizations from across the United States that are deeply committed to reducing needless damage to hearing from noise.

Exposure to harmful sounds causes damage to the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear, eventually affecting the nerve of hearing. These structures can be injured by noise in two different ways: from an intense brief impulse, such as an explosion from a firecracker, or from continuous exposure to noise, such as in a woodworking shop. Both forms can be prevented by the regular use of hearing protectors such as ear plugs or special ear muffs.

The world wide web is the central source for materials, programs and information for the public to learn more about the coalition's activities and resources. For more information about WISE EARS! visit its web site at: www.nih.gov/nidcd/health/wise.

As the nation's focal point for research in human communication, the NIDCD conducts and supports biomedical and behavioral research and research training on normal mechanisms as well as diseases and disorders of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech and language that affects millions of Americans.

NIOSH is the Federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury. The Institute is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.