- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A new City Council member has proposed an ordinance that would require nearly every music-oriented venue in Minneapolis to make earplugs available to patrons for free, after a trio of local companies pushed the idea as a public health issue.

The ordinance proposed by Jacob Frey is a first of its kind, and would affect about 185 businesses, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1f3LlZB ).

“Going to one of these venues, a lot of people just don’t know about hearing loss,” said Brian Felsen, whose apparel company, Locally Grown, Globally Known, is working with the Miracle-Ear Foundation and 3M to coordinate and fund the campaign. The earplugs would be provided for free to the city and venues to give out.

The proposal is scheduled for a public hearing April 1.

San Francisco has an ordinance requiring venues with dance floors to carry water and earplugs. But the clubs can charge for the earplugs. Felsen’s plan would offer free 3M earplugs in dispensers - a model he hopes to take to other cities.

Attorney Cam Winton, who ran as an independent for mayor this fall, said the government shouldn’t mandate something because it’s a good idea. He said there is a role in society for personal responsibility.

Winton also was concerned that the ordinance would require businesses to carry one company’s product.

“That’s not how we do business in this country,” he said.

The club industry seems to be taking it in stride for now, since the earplugs would be free.

“My position would be that if the government can provide a tool for us to do good or to provide safety and comfort for our customers, I’m all supportive of doing the right thing because it’s at no cost so it’s a no-brainer,” said Deepak Nath, co-owner of the Pourhouse on Hennepin Avenue.

Bert Schlauch, a hearing expert at the University of Minnesota, said concerts, work-related noise and guns are the primary causes of noise-induced hearing loss.

Jenni Hargraves, executive director of the Miracle-Ear Foundation, said the average noise level at a concert is 115 decibels, but damage can occur after 15 minutes of exposure to 100 decibels. She said damage often occurs gradually, but “you can have hearing loss after a one-time exposure to something” extremely loud.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com