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Title: Re: Big and very loud karatals can cause deafness

User: candrika         Date: 2006-01-30 10:05:00


Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krishna,

In England we have a nice saying “Silence Is Golden”

 There is also a Dr Karageorghis from Brunel Universit who studies the physiological effects of sound, especially music. He says that music also works through the power of association, for example if you have a particularly happy time in your life that you associate with a particular track, hearing it conjures up images and memories of that time and conjures up a positive psychological state. Loud noises are often associated with ore negative feelings like shock or disturbance. And the effect they have physiologicaly also explains why they are not so pleasant for us.

 He says that ” There is a strong link betweeen mind and body and music stimulates actual physiological responses (bodily effects). One of the major responses to music is heart rate, for example slow trance music is likely to reduce your heart rate by 4 or 5 beats per minute. Similarly if you listen to very stimulative music , your heart rate will rise.

 Interestingly heart rate has an impact on life span, the slower the beat the longer the lifespan, makes sense, because if the heart beats fast it is going to wear out faster.

 So in fact these loud crashing cymbals could effectively be shortening our life spans!!!!!

 Nityananda Gauranga Hare Krishna


Title: Big and very loud karatals can cause deafness

User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-10-28 18:10:00


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 Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Jaya Guru Parampara! I personally like to have only one karatala (cymbal) playing in kirtana so that the vibration of the Holy Names is heard very prominently and one can meditate on the Names with full concentration. Sometimes the playing of karatals gets too loud and the main purpose which is to hear and sing the Holy Names is compromised. I will like to add two articles which come to the same conclusion. More »: ""


 From Vina website:

 Do you get annoyed when kirtan is excessively loud from the clanging of metal bells, jajas: "http:///" and big kartalas? We have observed that many people cannot tolerate such strong sounds, which also destroy the sweet reception of any message.

 After talking to elderly devotees like Shripad jajas: "http:///"]Bhakti Vijnan Bharati Maharaj from Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, Shrila Hrishikesh Maharaj of Mayapur next to the Vraja Pattan as well as many others, we found out to our surprise that they too suffer from the unhealthy decibel levels of metal noise. Bharati Maharaj said that jajas were originally used to wake up people and announce the arrival of the sankirtan devotees, who came with their sweet sounds. Quotation Bharati Maharaj said that [URL="http:///" were originally used to wake up people and announce the arrival of the sankirtan devotees, who came with their sweet sounds. So when did those heavy sounds become a part of kirtan and does anyone really appreciate this style?

 In Vrindavan, the temples simply have an employee bang on a gong during arati. Could it be that people introduced the loud metal sounds in kirtan to hide their poor singing?

 It has been noticed especially in the West that people over the age of 30 usually walk away from the excessively loud kirtans. However, in a sweet, melodious kirtan the opposite happens; more people come to listen intently. Please offer your comments on this topic, and let the devotees feel encouraged to return to the tradition of sweet kirtans.


 From an article by Shri Jayadvaita Swami:

 Noise-induced hearing loss has two components: temporary and permanent. If you’ve ever attended a rock concert, for example, you may be familiar with temporary hearing loss. After the concert you may have found your ears ringing, and ordinary sounds may have seemed muffled. The ringing is a response from your assaulted auditory nerves. And that “muffled” effect comes from what’s called a “temporary threshold shift.” That is, after the blasting music, other sounds now need to be louder before you can hear them.

 In temporary hearing loss, after a few minutes or or a few hours the ringing stops, and your hearing goes back to normal. But when loud sounds fall upon your ears repeatedly over a prolonged time, for months and years, the threshold shift becomes permanent. Your hearing loss is then irreversible.

 The site of the damage responsible for this loss is the cochlea, a snail-shaped chamber within the inner ear. The cochlea is home to the 20,000 to 30,000 minute hair cells that transmit sound to the auditory nerve. Prolonged and excessive exposure to noise injures and finally destroys those cells. Once destroyed, the cells never come back.

How loud is the sound?

 The loudness of sounds is measured in units called decibels, just as temperature is measured in degrees. Note, however, that, unlike degrees, decibels are not absolute units. Measurements in decibels are logarithmic, not linear. Imagine, if you will, a thermometer in which going up from 70 degrees to 73 means getting twice as hot, from 70 to 76 means 4 times hotter, and from 70 to 79 means 8 times hotter. That’s the idea. Every time the sound level goes up 3 decibels, the sound gets twice as loud.

 How loud are the sounds we’re accustomed to hearing? Here’s a list that will give you a basic idea:

     0 dB: threshold of hearing in youths

     10 dB: anechoic room

     30 dB: quiet library

     45 dB: average residence

     55 dB: normal conversation

     60 dB: large store

     70 dB: vacuum cleaner (10 feet away), freight train (100 feet away)

     75 dB: average factory

     80 dB: alarm clock, normal traffic, loud orchestra, pneumatic drill (from 50 feet)


     90 dB: lawn mower, motorcycle, city traffic, boiler room, printing press room, subway train (from 20 feet)

     100 dB: riveting machine

     110 dB: thunder, pile driver, amplified rock music

     125 dB: jet takeoff (from 200 feet away)

     130 dB: pain threshold

 The loudness of a sound depends, of course, on how far you are from its source, how clear the path between the sound and you, and what happens to the sound along the way. For example, a sound made outdoors might be moderately loud, but the same sound made in a small closed room with smooth walls will ricochet many times over, so its effect will be more intense.

 How loud is a typical kirtana? I can’t say for everywhere. But according to a series of readings with a sound-level meter, here’s what it is in the temple room in Alachua. A typical guru-puja kirtana, with 3 drums, 2 or 3 sets of karatals, 2 moderate-sized “whompers” , and the usual amplification comes to around 100 decibels, with a sustained crescendo of 106 to 110.

 Does that level of sound present a danger to hearing? Read on.

 It happens without your knowing

 The pitch, or frequency, of sounds is measured in units called Hertz (Hz). Young children may hear sounds as low as 16 Hz (lower in pitch than the lowest note on a piano) and as high as 20,000 (well above the highest note on a piccolo). As we grow older, the upper limit comes down, so that many adults can’t hear sounds above 12,000 Hz. The range of frequencies for speech extends from about 200 Hz to about 6,000. Music, of course, extends higher.

 What happens in noise-induced hearing loss is that you start to lose your high frequencies. Typically, the tones around 4,000 Hz are the first to go. You may still hear those tones, but only when they’re louder than before. Young, healthy ears pick up sounds as soft as 10 or 20 decibels. With noise-induced hearing loss, you may not hear those sounds unless they’re many times louder, say 50 decibels.

 The next tones to go might be in the range of 6,000 and 8,000 Hertz, as the hairs in your inner ear that respond to those frequencies are gradually damaged and then destroyed.

 At this stage, you’re unlikely to notice what’s happening. The main sounds you’re conscious of are the sounds of speech, which mostly occupy the lower frequencies, 2,000 Hertz and below. Some consonants—like s, f, ,t and z—do extend into the higher frequencies, but even when you fail to hear them, your mind automatically uses the context given by the other letters to supply the sounds you’ve missed. So hearing seems to go on as normal. You’re losing your hearing, and you don’t even know it.

 Noise-induced hearing loss progresses very slowly. It usually takes many months, and often years. Along the way, you feel no pain, see no blood or bruises. So you don’t realize what’s happening.

 Next, however, the losses in the higher frequencies may become greater, and the lower tones may also start to give way. Now you start having trouble hearing speech. Actually, you can still hear it, but you start having trouble *distinguishing* what’s being said.

 Now you may start to complain about your hearing. But by now the damage done is severe, irreversible, and perhaps even seriously handicapping.

 Another problem I should mention (I mentioned it briefly before) is what’s technically called tinnitus (from a Latin word meaning “to ring”). This is a ringing, buzzing, whistling, or other such sound in the ear. Though disturbing, it’s generally temporary. But when damage in the inner ear has brought about a permanent loss in hearing, a ringing tinnitus may go on for many years.

 Tinnitus, says one authority, does not commonly occur from exposure to everyday occupational noise. But “it does occur in employees who are exposed to very high-pitched intense noise, such as pounding of metal upon metal in foundries.” 1

 Like noise-induced hearing loss itself, tinnitus has no known cure. You just have to learn to live with it.

How much can you take?

 It’s generally accepted that when a sound is excessively loud, the longer you’re exposed to it the more you put your hearing at risk. What’s a “safe dose” of loud sound?

 This is a question to which much research and discussion has been devoted. The research has evolved, in particular, from the need to protect people from excessive noise in the workplace, especially the military and industrial workplace.

 In America, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set standards limiting the time to which employers can let their workers be exposed to various levels of sound. Here are the standards:

 Sound level (dB)     Hours per days

90      8

92      6

95      4

97      3

100    2

102    1-1/2

105    1

110    1/2

115    1/4 or less

 These numbers, however, represent legal standards, not medical or scientific ones. They belong to rules meant to help protect the hearing of workers (and protect employers in lawsuits brought by workers with hearing impaired).

 Comments B. Adam Sagan, a lawyer with graduate degrees in audiology and speech pathology, “Both medical experts and speech scientists  that the standards issued by OSHA are more a result of political compromise than scientific validity.”2

 This is underscored by Donald C. Gasaway, one of America’s foremost experts on hearing loss and hearing conservation. “Many people  suffered a noise-induced loss because they were led to believe that higher levels of noise could be tolerated if the duration of exposure was less than some ‘magic’ number.… Such belief comes from what, in my opinion, is the misapplication of auditory risk criteria. If a given assessment states that 100 dB… is associated with a ‘dose’ of 30 minutes per day, there may be a general acceptance that the ‘risk’ is nullified if the duration is one-half of the ‘allowed’ dose, such as 15 minutes. I consider adoption of this belief a primary contributor to noise-induced losses. I have learned to respect seriously the danger of such high-level exposures, even for 2 minutes. In my opinion, those who provide guidance concerning such exposures should adopt a more cautious approach.”3

 As reported in Health News, published by the University of Toronto, “At a level of 110 dB, even five minutes of unremitting exposure can lead to some hearing loss.”4

 Health News summarizes things this way: “To determine whether your environment is loud enough to harm the ears, check whether you have to shout to make yourself heard or if, when you leave a noisy environment, sound seems muffled. If yes, the noise level is too high and already injuring your ears. “While entirely preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is also entirely incurable. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, millions of North Americans are at risk of hearing loss from noisy work situations, especially farmers, truck drivers, miners, industrial and construction workers, policemen and musicians (playing in the orchestra or rock band can be a very noisy job). “The currently suggested level at which hearing protection should begin on a voluntary basis (no laws about it) is 85 dB. According to ear specialists it should be mandatory at 90 dB. People with jobs that expose them to noise over the 85-decibel level for a prolonged time should wear personal hearing protectors (earplugs or earmuffs) and turn the volume down during recreational activities. Remember that levels from rock bands and personal stereos may far exceed the danger limit!”5

 What this means to the Devotee Community

 How all this pertains to the devotee community should by now be reasonably obvious. As part of our prescribed routine program, we expose ourselves, and those for whom we are responsible, to levels of sound well within the range where loss of hearing should be a matter of concern. Drums and karatals are loud to begin with. And lately karatals of giant size have come to be something of a fashion. We play our instruments indoors, in what are often small rooms with low ceilings and smooth walls and floors. And then we electronically amplify the sound.

 Beyond this, devotees generally have little or no education about what the physical effects of loud sound on the ears can be. And so during kirtana we turn up the volume to maximum. We even see devotees playfully using karatalas as if to box the ears of other devotees. Within my own experience, last year one senior devotee came up close to me during kirtana as if to whisper something in my ear, and then shouted at the top of his lungs, “GOVINDA!” We sometimes have ill-informed ideas about how to express our ecstasy.6

 We are responsible, of course, for large numbers of people, including children. We want them to be fit and healthy for devotional service. And we are ethically accountable for their welfare.

 Apart from that, we can suppose that people more cautiously protective of their hearing may be hesitant to join in the Krishna: "http:///"]Hare [URL="http:///" movement as word gets around that a disproportionate number of its members eventually need hearing aids and acoustic earmuffs.7

 Stopping it from happening

 Noise-induced hearing loss, though permanent and irreversible, is largely preventable. The way to prevent it is through what is known as a Hearing Conservation Program. Such programs have been in place in all branches of the U.S. military since the 1950’s, and U.S. law has made them mandatory in high-noise industrial environments since 1971. Such a program is appropriate—and important—for any organization that expects its members to be regularly exposed to high levels of sound.

 An effective Hearing Conservation Program generally has seven parts:8 (1) measuring levels 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, and (7) seeing how well your program is doing.

 Let me briefly explain each one.

 1. Measuring the level of exposure.

 How loud is the sound? Does it present a problem or not? There are standard equipment and procedures that will tell you. (It’s not expensive.)9

 2. Controlling the level of sound.

 Once you know how loud your sound is, if it’s too high you can work to bring it down. In a factory this might mean using quieter machines or sealing off areas that are noisy. Controlling sound in ISKCON centers might involve, for example, turning down amplifiers, placing limits on the use of certain instruments, and using sound-absorbing materials for softer acoustics in temple rooms.

 In these efforts the first step—obvious but easily overlooked—is for the person or governing body in charge to take them seriously.

 3. Testing the hearing of your people.

 If your sound is at safe levels, fine. If not, your people should have regular, periodical hearing tests.

 Hearing tests are brief, standard medical procedures, performed with a tone generator and earphones, to tell you what’s happening to a person’s hearing. They are usually performed by a mobile testing unit or at a local hearing clinic, though they may also be done in-house by a person properly trained.10

 Since noise does most of its damage before a person even notices that his hearing is going bad, hearing tests are the only sure way to detect trouble in time to prevent it.

 Hearing tests also provide the way for you to tell how well your hearing-conservation program is working.

 4. Seeing to the use of ear protectors.

 If you can’t cut down the sound, people may need to directly protect their ears.

 A wide selection of protective devices is available—various kinds of ear plugs, ear putty, and so on. But they only work properly when properly chosen, fitted, and used. People who need them should be encouraged to use them, and shown how to use them properly.

 For people whose hearing has already been affected, using hearing protectors—or staying away from loud sound altogether—is the only way to keep their ears from getting worse.

 5. Educating and motivating your people.

 In a movement such as ours, I hope it’s needless to explain why people don’t deserve to be left ignorant.

 Of course, we’re mainly concerned about spiritual understanding. But since our process of spiritual enlightenment depends, most of all, upon hearing, it follows that devotees ought to safeguard the proper functioning of their ears.

 This, too, requires proper education and encouragement.

 6. Keeping records

 Properly kept records allow you to keep track of what’s going on with your program. Also—of crucial concern—they’re essential for keeping track of the aural health of individual devotees.

 7. Seeing how well your program is doing.

 Periodically reevaluating your program helps you see how well it’s working, alerts you to problems, and helps you see any changes you should make.

 Closing remarks

 There. Now, I hope, I’ve alerted you and somewhat informed you. Take it lightly if you will. But be warned: If you ignore all this, soon you and other devotees may wind up expanding the ocean of Krishna: "http:///"’s glories by often repeating a new mantra: “Say that again?”


Title: Re: Big and very loud karatals can cause deafness

User: Bhakta Michael          Date: 2006-10-31 10:17:00


Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!

 I have never liked this very loud crashing of hand symbals during Kirtan, there is always the happy sensible medium. But it is understandable that some devotees get a little carried away in joyfulness and enthusiasm and use full force on the instruments. It is always easy to move to the sidelines where the decibels are less taxing on the ears!

 Of course the main consideration is the sincerity of the devotion being offered. If a pure devotee such as Shrila Prabhupada or our Gaurangapada Swami had or were to cause discomfort to my eardrums in Kirtan, I should consider it a blessing and great good fortune bestowed upon me that I was able to be in that exalted company at that time