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Protect your hearing for Carnival

Our ability to hear is extremely important for us to communicate with fellow human beings through speech. It allows us to appreciate fine music and sounds from our environment. Many persons enjoy listening to calypso, dancing to soca music and enjoying the sweet sounds of the steelbands. This would not be possible if we could not hear those sounds. The ability to hear is very precious and should be protected.

One of the most damaging things to our hearing is any type of loud sound. Around Carnival time in Trinidad and Tobago, the noise levels at various activities can be very high. High noise levels can permanently damage our hearing and may also lead to annoying tinnitus (noise in the ear) which may never go away. This type of hearing loss, called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), usually occurs from high noise exposure over a long period of time.

However, studies have also shown that short exposure to very high sound levels, such as those in concerts, can also cause hearing loss and tinnitus.

In Trinidad and Tobago, ear nose and throat doctors have seen several cases where persons have permanently lost their hearing from short exposure to loud music form speakers and steelbands, and other sources of loud sound. This is called acoustic trauma. It is therefore necessary to protect ourselves and others from this hazard.

A spectator or reveller usually cannot measure the noise levels in Carnival activities, but it is not difficult to judge if the level of noise is loud enough to cause damage to hearing. The following signs should alert persons that the sound around them is loud enough to damage hearing:

• persons have to shout to be heard

• persons cannot understand anyone who is speaking to them from less than two feet away

• persons experience ringing in the ears or hearing loss after exposure to the loud sounds

The following is some general advice for the Carnival season:

• all persons, especially children, should stay well away from speaker boxes, music trucks, very loud steelbands or any other source of loud sound

• ear protection (earplugs or earmuffs) should be worn if any adult or child is likely to be exposed to loud sound for long periods of time

• all musicians (including steelband players, music band players, rhythm section players, entertainers, etc) should wear ear protection whenever the level of sound is high

• all masqueraders should wear ear protection if they are likely to be near to the music source or loud sound (near the "big truck")

• walking in front of loudspeakers should be avoided

• when wearing ear protection, individuals should be very alert and avoid areas with moving vehicular traffic or similar hazards as all sounds will be muted

• children wearing hearing protection should be closely supervised at all times.

The Trinidad and Tobago Society of Otolaryngologists and Head and Neck Surgeons (TTSOHNS) wishes all to have a

clean, safe and enjoyable Carnival.

Austin Trinidade

President TTSOHNS

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