Noise-induced hearing loss in ISKCON

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Hare Krishna Dasa (HDG)

Nombre de Usuario: Harekrishnadasa

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Registrado: 06-2004
Enviado Jueves, 29 de Junio de 2006 - 06:40 pm:   

Could you say that again?
Noise-induced hearing loss in ISKCON
A follow-up report
by Jayadvaita Swami
(January 2006)

Twelve years ago, I distributed to all the members of the ISKCON GBC what I called “a preliminary report” on noise-induced hearing loss in ISKCON.

According to audiologists, the report explained, prolonged and repeated exposure to “loud” sound—that is, sound above a certain decibel level—places one at high risk of gradually losing one’s hearing.

The usual sound level of ISKCON’s kirtanas, the report said, well exceeds the levels authorities consider “safe.” So if you’re a practicing member of ISKCON your hearing stands at high risk.

Hearing loss, the report said, creeps up imperceptibly, and by the time you notice its effects it’s too late: the damage cannot be reversed.

But hearing loss can be prevented. And the standard way is through a Hearing Conservation Program, consisting of seven parts:
  1. Measuring the level of exposure
  2. Controlling the level of sound
  3. Testing the hearing of your people
  4. Seeing to the use of ear protectors
  5. Educating and motivating your people
  6. Keeping records
  7. Reviewing the results of your program
The report briefly told what each part entails. It mentioned that such programs have been in place in all branches of the U.S. military since the 1950s and are required by law in American industry. The costs for such a program, the report explained, are close to negligible.

Now, twelve years later, what progress have we made?

My report, I believe, made some devotees better aware of the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Some began regularly using personal hearing protectors (earplugs). A few temples somewhat turned down the amps. Ultra-large karatalas became a less-admired fashion.

A few devotees had their hearing checked. Some discovered that noise-induced hearing loss had already cut into what they can hear. Some now use hearing aids. One of our best kirtana leaders has been afflicted by chronic and seriously disturbing tinnitus (“ringing in the ears”), an effect my report had warned of.

Yet while some temples have turned the volume down, others have turned it up. And in the wake of the vogue for oversized karatalas has come a passion for African drums loud enough to drown out mrdangas.

In short, since twelve years ago little has changed. The hearing of ISKCON’s members stands as much at risk now as then. And to my knowledge no ISKCON temple—and, more sadly, no ISKCON school—has undertaken a systematic hearing conservation program.

To do the sensible things to conserve the hearing of our devotees, where should we start? Twelve years ago I wrote of the efforts needed, “In these efforts the first step—obvious but easily overlooked—is for the person or governing body in charge to take them seriously.” Arguably, that’s a first step still yet to be taken.

My preliminary report, submitted twelve years ago, seems to have gone mostly unheard. I wonder: Should I perhaps be shouting?

Jayadvaita Swami

NOTE: My preliminary report is available online at www.jswami.info/hearing_loss (In that address, please note the underscore: “hearing_loss.”)

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