Here's a public health story that ought to catch the eye (and ear) of North Carolinians: A new federal study has shown that NASCAR is hazardous to our hearing .
Noise levels at the track can reach 140 decibels. By comparison, a chainsaw is only 90-100. Even a jet taking off is only 120. Bristol Motor Speedway is the noisiest track, incidentally.
I must admit, I had a mildly skeptical reaction to this story. Why was money spent on this study? It can't come as much of a surprise to anybody that the cars are loud. In defense of the researchers, one of the NASCAR teams asked these occupational safety experts to study the issue. There also are forthcoming studies of the noise risks from concert music. Your kids with their iPods  may come in for some criticism too. So they’re not simply picking on racing.
No, the value of this report may be to get the racing world, fans as well as competitors – many of which, given NASCAR’s popularity, sit in our pews – to think about the effects our lifestyles can have on our health. We might laugh about ringing in our ears after a race. We might even consider it a badge of honor. But at some point, and it doesn’t take long, the ringing may not completely stop, and the hearing might not come all the way back.
Many of our innocent, familiar routines will have to change in the name of health. In a myriad of ways, big and small, what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working for us.
Fortunately, for some problems, a solution is near at hand. Those foam rubber ear plugs look a little funny, but they’re cheap, and they do a pretty good job.
Clergy Health Initiative