Public Release: 

Surprising airbag hazards among research findings at hearing safety conference

National Hearing Conservation Association

At the National Hearing Conservation Association's 32nd annual conference, top experts in the field will reveal new findings related to automobile airbags, military hearing protection, and farm-work related trauma. Several hundred people are expected to attend the conference, titled "A Passion to Preserve," which will be held Feb. 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah, Ga.

Permanent hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in people over the age of 65, and roughly 30 million people in the United States have significant permanent hearing loss.

"The extent of the problem in society is much greater than people realize," said NHCA Director of Education Brian Fligor. "It deserves so much of our time, attention and resources because so much of it is preventable, and it has such a profound effect on our quality of life, productivity, and general well being."

The conference will host dozens of presentations, including auditory physiologist Dr. G. Richard Price's "Intense Impulse Noise: Hearing Conservation's Poison Gas," which has surprising new data on hearing loss as a result of automobile airbag deployment. He will present data predicting that 17 percent of people who are exposed to car airbag deployment in the United States will suffer some permanent hearing loss. Price will also describe research that concludes, counterintuitively, that having car windows rolled up when airbags are deployed is actually less hazardous to the ear than rolled-down windows. Previously experts thought rolled-up windows were more dangerous because they allow for higher pressure to be created inside the cabin.

Dr. Nancy Sprince, of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, will be presenting "Hearing Loss: A Risk Factor for Farm-Work Related Traumatic Injury," in which she will discuss a new study showing that hearing difficulties increase farmers' risk of work-related traumatic injuries. She will advocate the prevention of agricultural injuries by controlling the noise exposure that leads to hearing loss.

A luncheon presented by Dr. Charles D. Ross of Longwood University will discuss how acoustical phenomena affected the outcomes of Civil War battles. He will explain how acoustic shadows, a catch-all term that encompasses several types of phenomena, can make a person not hear a sound he or she would ordinarily hear or make a person hear a sound he or she would not ordinarily hear. Also among the presentations will be an Army study assessing an improved version of the combat arms earplug. Previous concerns over the plug's fit, comfort and size have been improved, and the plug has been evaluated for performance in a number of different functions.

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The NHCA's mission is to prevent hearing loss due to noise and other environmental factors in all sectors of society. They do this by facilitating its members' professional development, encouraging research in the field, participating in regulatory and legislative activities and stimulating the exchange of information among those involved with hearing conservation.

Individual news releases on the automobile airbag hearing loss data and the farm-work related trauma study will be available on Feb. 13. Please contact Turner Brinton if you would like copies of these releases as soon as they are available.

More information on the conference can be found at www.hearingconservation.org.

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