To The Editor:
I am writing as an audiologist and concerned parent regarding the Saugatuck Public Schools’ May 7 bond proposal. One of the proposed improvements is for the band room. With almost 100 students in band, the current band space is not just inadequate, but unsafe.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has established guidelines for preventing hearing loss. The legal sound level limit that a person may be safely exposed to is 85dB(A) for an eight-hour period.
When I visited the class, average rehearsal sound levels were 98dB(A) with peaks over 108dB. Essentially, in under 35 minutes, ears were exposed to 91 percent of the 24-hour maximum permissible sound. Peak levels were in a range that can cause hearing damage within minutes.
The risk for permanent noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) from loud music is not academic but real and well documented. In fact, several students approached me after class and shared that their ears often “ring” after rehearsals.
A large band room space is needed, appropriate to the size of the band and acoustically treated to absorb and diffuse sound. Hearing protection will still be required, but a larger room will reduce sound levels to a safer range.
We now know better: Our perspectives have changed on sun safety, seat-belts, use of protective gear for sports and shop classes. We would not let our children play football without helmets or do woodworking without safety glasses. Noise-induced hearing loss is usually a process, not an event, and current evidence shows our children are at risk. Hearing safety should be a priority not just for shop classes, but for music.
As an audiologist committed to preventing hearing loss and as a parent of a student in SPS, I am in favor of the “yes” vote.
Dr. Stelios Dokianakis, Au.D.
Holland Doctors of Audiology