July 7, 2008

Protecting little ears at loud concerts

Wine country summertime means outdoor concerts, and this means humans have to protect little ears from loud music. My dog-ma makes me howl when she tells me about seeing puppies and human babies at these venues (where dogs aren't usually allowed "because of the food").

I asked veterinarian Jona Sun Jordan, DVM, to put this topic in pawspective. You can find Dr. J and her caring staff at Coddingtown Veterinary Clinic in Santa Rosa, California. I like that Dr. J practices Eastern holistic medicine, including TCM and nutritional and herbal therapy, along with Western medicine.

Dr. J says, "Young pet and human ears are especially sensitive to intense sound. Exposure to continued or impulse noise above a certain level — about 100 decibels — can cause pain to little ones and even instantaneous hearing damage. Sound level at a concert can reach 115 to 120 decibels, the pain threshold for the average human adult."

How can a human stand music this loud at a concert? Dr. Jordan explains, "When a person has been enjoying alcohol or other substances, their sense of hearing is dulled. This means that dangerously loud music may not sound all that loud to them. To be safe, little ones should have the appropriate protection at a concert even if the adults don't think the music sounds loud."

So, when pets, kids, and babies are near big stage speakers, it's like they're standing next to someone firing a rifle — only it's worse, because speakers get louder with sudden feedback blasts or when accidentally turned up.

Dr. Jordan adds, "I know of one case where a boy lost his hearing during a loud concert. He was lucky and most of his hearing returned after a few months, but it was a scary time for him and his family."

Here are simple paw points for protecting ears:

1) If it seems loud to you adult humans, it's too loud for pets and children, and damaging to ears of human babies and animal babies.

2) All concerts are too loud, period. There's no "safe" concert for pets and little ones to attend. Not unless they remain way in the back of the audience and also far away from any back speakers.

3) Little ones need earplugs to be safe around any potential loudness. You can make or buy earplugs for pets and kids. Get them to practice wearing earplugs before they need to.

4) Consult your healthcare professionals. It takes skill to plug little ears effectively and safely, especially itsy bitsy baby ears. Your veterinary and pediatric humans would be pawsitively pleased to help protect little ears!

5) Have fun, and take me next time.

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