By New York Post
Noise from screeching brakes and roaring trains on subway platforms is so harsh on the ears that it can cause “permanent, irreversible, noise-induced hearing loss,” a new study in a top medical journal found.
Researchers said that sound levels in some stations can reach up to 102.1 decibels — that’s at least 23 points above what human ears should safely endure, the American Journal of Public Health’s study said.
It’s as torturous as standing next to a constantly running chainsaw, according to University of Washington professor Richard Neitzel.
The deafening effect has left straphangers improvising their own ear protection.
Kathryn Fangsrud, a teacher, said she often has to get off the train or leave platforms because the screams of braking trains leaves her ears ringing long after she gets home.
“I plug them all the time. I’ve been doing this for five years. I’m afraid of permanent ear damage,” she said at Columbus Circle yesterday.
If she’s carrying too many shopping bags to cover up, her husband will block her ears.
But NYCT officials — and the researchers themselves — said that they’ve been making subway improvements to reduce noise since the 1970’s.
Workers have welded rails differently, used newer kinds of brake shoes, installed efficient air conditioning units, and add “track lubrication along sharp curves,” said spokesman Charles Seaton.
“Many subway stations now have noise absorbing barriers, as well as acoustic materials above and below the platforms,” he added.
It’s not just regular riders who have to worry, the study said.
“At the noise levels measured in the subway, exposures of a few hours to as little as two minutes a day would be expected to cause hearing loss,” the report warned.
Normal conversation is 60 to 70 decibels, the report said, while about half of all subway trains exceeded 90 decibels.
Some riders said they try to drown out the rumble by playing soothing music on their iPods.
Will Martina, a musician, says he uses a Zen approach.
“When the train comes, I get as relaxed as I can — It’s a mental game I use to try to overcome the noise,” he said. “But still it’s annoying.”
Manhattan stations were by far the worst, the researchers said, and the sounds of the subways were louder than any MTA buses or commuter-rail lines.