Fifteen percent of adult Americans have hearing loss due to noise exposure, according to the National Institutes of Health. Loud sounds damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical impulses. Often the loss is gradual, so you don't even notice it at first. But because it's also cumulative, it pays to protect your ears from further harm by avoiding loud and prolonged noises, like blaring music or the pounding of jackhammers.
Your rehab plan: Use foam or silicone earplugs, available at drugstores, while vacuuming or drying your hair, says Ron Eavey, MD, chair of the department of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Most blow-dryers produce sounds at around 90 decibels (the same as a motorcycle!); anything above 85 can induce hearing loss. Check out quieter models, such as the Centrix Q-Zone Quiet Dryer from Cricket ($180, ulta.com) or the T3 Featherweight ($200, sephora.com), which emit around 70 decibels of noise.
Pack a pair of musicians' earplugs ($2 and up, earplugstore.com), which reduce the volume of music without distorting its sound, whenever you go to concerts. It's wise to wear them at the gym, too. Researchers at Wichita State University in Kansas found that many health clubs blast music at more than 100 decibels during fitness classes. If you usually play Gaga at full volume on your MP3 player, dial it down. "Halfway on the volume control is a safe place to be," says Cameron Cowan, an audiologist at Midwest Hearing Consultants in Geneva, Illinois. Limit headphone use to a few hours a day, she advises.
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