Protect Your Ears

When you think of premature aging, no doubt wrinkles come to mind-but how about your aging ears?

Consumer Reports looks at potentially damaging everyday noise and the toll it can take.

Hair dryers, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners. These are just some of the everyday items that are potentially loud enough to affect your hearing, according to Consumer Reports.

An estimated 30-million Americans have hearing loss. One reason is noise.

Consider a daily routine where you go to the gym in the morning, eat lunch at a noisy restaurant, then mow your lawn. That can add up and do damage over time.

Kids listening to MP3 players a particularly vulnerable.

"An estimated 15 percent of American teenagers are showing early signs of hearing loss, which is very disconcerting." said Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports. "One reason is the tendency that people have to crank MP3 players really loud to drown out ambient noise."

To protect your ears, Consumer Reports says some MP3 players have a volume limiter you can set with a password.

Otherwise, keep your MP3 player well below maximum volume.

And consider ear protection.

"These little inexpensive foam earl plugs, you can buy them at any drugstore, are high effective at blocking unwanted noise," said Metcalf.

But inserting them properly is key. You have to roll the earplug in your hands. Then pulling up your ear, slide the earl plug in.

Using simple earplugs like this can significantly reduce your risk of hearing damage.

Consumer Reports' tests show noise-canceling headphones and insert-type earbuds can also be helpful.

They help block out the background noise that causes people to raise volumes too high.

For insert-type headphones, top-rated for noise cancelling are ones from Panasonic, model RP-HC5. They cost $65.


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