Even a Dummy Knows October is Protect Your Hearing Month

Posted on by Janet Ehlers, RN, MSN, COHC and Pamela S. Graydon, MS, COHC

Meet Nick.  Nick is a training mannequin who helps NIOSH teach young people and their families about preventing noise-induced hearing loss.  Hearing loss can result from working around noise–even non-powered hand tools–without wearing proper hearing protection. It is not uncommon for a 25 year-old farmer or carpenter to have the hearing of a 50 year-old.  In fact, 33% of all people who are exposed to hazardous noise at work will develop noise-induced hearing loss. You don’t have to work on a farm or at a factory to be at risk; common noise sources around your house – such as lawnmowers, power tools, and music systems – can be hazardous to your hearing.  It is the sum of all of your exposures to sound throughout the day and evening that add together to damage hearing when that total becomes excessive. Even the young are at risk.  In the general population, approximately 15% of those between ages 6 and 19 show signs of impaired hearing.[i]  One study found that over 30% of high school boys who live or work on a farm have hearing loss[ii]. We need to protect this and the next generation of workers.

In addition to the obvious problems that hearing loss creates, such as no longer hearing the sounds you want to hear the way you want to hear them and difficulty communicating with others, hearing loss also creates safety and health risks. The inability to hear important warning sounds can increase the likelihood of injury or death, and excessive noise can leave you feeling tired or stressed. It can even increase your blood pressure. Although noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and there is no cure, it is 100% preventable!

This is where Nick comes in.  Nick travels to conferences and meetings to help NIOSH educate students, teachers, workers and their families about how to protect their hearing. As of September, 2012, Nick has traveled 30,000 miles and appeared at 33 events in 10 states and British Columbia.   Students at the University of Northern Colorado built Nick for NIOSH.   He’s specially equipped with a sound level meter wired to a microphone inside of a silicon ear and can measure the sound levels of personal music players.  This is a big draw for both young people and their parents and it opens the door for discussions about preventing noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace.

Nick is used in conjunction with two companion brochures on preventing noise-induced hearing loss. They’re your ears, Protect them: Hearing Loss Caused by Farm Noise is Preventable is designed to increase the awareness about the relationship between farm noise and the early onset of tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) and hearing loss among farmers. Have You Heard?  Hearing Loss Caused by Farm Noise is Preventable: Young Farmers’ Guide for Selecting and Using Hearing Protection provides an overview of the variety of hearing protection available including when and how to use it.  Although these brochures target young farmers and their families, the information is relevant to many occupations and is used widely outside of the agricultural community. Prevention highlights include:

  • Reduce equipment noise
  • Always wear hearing protection around loud noises
  • Limit exposure to loud noise
  • Have your hearing tested

Nick has over 65 “siblings” around the world.  If you are involved in education related to hearing loss prevention, consider adding to the family to celebrate Protect Your Hearing Month this October.  You can build a similar mannequin for around $100 plus the cost of a mannequin. You may even be able to get a local department store to donate a used mannequin.  Directions are available from the Dangerous Decibels website.  Dangerous Decibels is the organization that created and introduced us to Jolene, the original training mannequin.

With tools like Nick and his “family” we can help workers prevent hearing loss, not only during Protect Your Hearing Month, but for a lifetime.

Janet Ehlers, RN, MSN, COHC  and Pamela S. Graydon, MS, COHC

Ms. Ehlers is and Occupational Health Nurse in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies. 

Ms. Graydon is an Electronics Engineer working in hearing loss prevention in the  NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology. 

For more information on preventing hearing loss in the workplace, visit the NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention topic page.  For information about preventing hearing loss outside of the workplace, check out the Noisy Planet Campaign at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

[i] Niskar AS, Kieszak SM, Holmes A, Esteban E, Rubin C, Brody DJ. Prevalence of hearing loss among children 6 to 19 years of age: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA. 1998 Apr 8;279(14):1071-5.

[ii] Broste SK, Hansen DA, Strand RL, Stueland DT. Hearing loss among high school farm students. Am J Public Health 1989;79:619-22.

Posted on by Janet Ehlers, RN, MSN, COHC and Pamela S. Graydon, MS, COHC

29 comments on “Even a Dummy Knows October is Protect Your Hearing Month”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Unfortunately we are not aware of the importance of hearing in our lives and we do not remember until we lose hearing, as well you say in your article, hearing loss can lead to dangerous situations as common as hearing a car while crossing a street hear a siren or so commonplace as to maintain social life with our neighbors.
    Bad habits such as listening to music at a very high destroy our eardrums, but even more we must be cautious in everyday situations such as work in the streets, etc..
    Another point to consider is the noise at the time of the break, if not rest our body changes occur that affect us both physically and in our mood which can pejudicarnos in our dealings with the people around us.

    Nice work. I especially like the hair.

    I am wondering about a potential addition to Nick’s accessories. A set of headphones connected to recorded speech – as heard by someone with noise induced hearing loss – maybe with and without background noise. I think people would be much more careful about noise exposure if they realized it’s how frustrating it can be to lose the ability to differentiate “f’s” and “s’s” and “p’s” and “t’s.”

    Kelvin – thanks for that link to the sound bites form soundcheckaustralia. That is a perfect adjunct to the training I am planning. Perfect!

    Interesting article but it brings me to rumors I had heard previously about items such as Ipods and headphones causing hearing loss as well. I guess these items could cause hearing loss as well if played loud enough – looks like the younger generation is going to grow up partially deaf!

    Great job on putting this together. I will be using it at my next Safety Meeting.
    We have a lot of younger men working for us that come from farms, great information to pass on to them.

    One thing I’ve always been concerned about as a music producer is the impacts of high volume audio monitoring and the possibility of severe hearing loss over time. I own a Music Production Forum and feel that hearing loss awareness would be a good topic to include and discuss amongst the other producers and music enthusiasts on the site.

    I don’t know October is Protect Your Hearing Month.

    It means, I am more stupid than dummy…. 🙂

    By the way, nice article. Keep posting.


    Losing my hearing is my worst fear as a music producer. With advancing technologies of headphones / speakers and the widespread available to teens and young children, hearing loss has got to be growing into a larger and larger issue.
    Music Production Software and DAWs also allow people to modify sound and not only just amplify it but boost specific frequency ranges, and use excessive compression to the sound, which could possibly damage your ears if you aren’t careful. It’s pretty common now for younger kids to start modifying audio in a DAW or music editing software and I always thought there should be some safety function that will limit the audio to an extent…besides manually adding a limiter or something on the master bus, something built into the programs themselves to protect hearing.

    Most people dont realize the abuse we put on our ears on a daily basis, i make music all day, i have some on my site. I sometimes need to step away and I also wear ear plugs when taking public transportation. Thanks for the tips you gave as well.

    im beginning to loose my hearing due to working in an arena in liverpool so thankyou for the info

    I don’t know October is Protect Your Hearing Month.

    It means, I am more stupid than dummy…. 🙂

    By the way, nice article. Keep posting. 😀

    As a truck driver we are exposed to hearing problems via the large engines in the trucks. We cannot use ear plugs so that lease us out. It takes days for me to get the ringing out of my ears from the exposure.

    The t-shirts were distributed internally in Cincinnati for the NIOSH 40th Anniversary several years ago. Unfortunately we do not have any left.

    We should do what it takes to prevent hearing loss. We should be conscious of everything that we listen to specially the youths who are exposed to all sorts of entertainment and sometimes they are not conscious of the volume level. Bad news is that there is no cure to loss of hearing but is totally preventable.

    I own a hearing aid company and I love october for this reason. Hearing aid manufacturers provide a lot of services and marketing for october, especially since it’s around the same time as breast cancer awareness. Good article. Thanks.

    Why do we need a noise cancelling headsets? It is demand for a well demanded job in “contact center” where the environment is always loud where a large number of calls land every minute. nosie in the back ground has never been good for the business and almost all the contact center mangers understand this point of view. And on the top unlimited hours of its use noise cancelling headsets takes the toll.

    Very excellent post Even a Dummy Knows October is Protect Your Hearing Month. Thanks for sharing.

    Nice approach of using mannequin for showing hearing problem specially in youths .Yes definitely this is true that noise pollution is not only from industrial areas ,or factories.Our house equipment can also be hazardous source for noise problem.Thanks for sharing good thoughts .

    wow great post dummy. Please keep sharing your article. are you have individual email. i need your newslater thanks you

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