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Ringing in the New Year without Ringing in Your Ears

If your New Year's Eve plans include attending a celebration, make sure the ringing you hear at the party doesn't follow you home as the result of exposure to loud noises.

Prolonged exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) can result in permanent hearing loss or tinnitus,  a noticeable ringing, roaring, clicking or hissing sound in your ears. Many of the sounds associated with end-of-year parties register decibel levels far beyond those considered safe, so it's important to take extra precautions this time of year.

Fireworks and firecrackers register noise levels of 162 dB and 150 dB respectively. Attending a band or rock concert? That music emits levels between 110-120 dB. Marching bands trumpet sounds of 100 dB. And those noise makers everyone likes to blow at midnight? They can measure140 dB -- more than twice the safe limit.

To avoid experiencing tinnitus as a result of exposure to loud noises this New Year's Eve, consider investing in a set of inexpensive foam earplugs, available at your local drugstore. These can reduce noise by as much as 30 dB. If you'll be attending a rock or band concert, choose a seat at a safe distance from the speakers and, if possible, choose a outside venue or facility with good acoustics where sound can dissipate easily. 

If you're a hearing aid user, adjust your memory settings for noise reduction. If your instrument doesn't have this feature, invest in a pair of noise reducing earmuffs. Hearing aids amplify sound, so it's important to protect your remaining hearing, especially when you know you'll be spending time in a noisy environment. Prices for earmuffs begin at $10 and reduce noise levels by as much as 30 dB. If your hearing aid center doesn't sell them, look for them in better department stores or online.

If children are joining you at New Year's celebrations, make hearing protection a family affair by talking to them about the importance of wearing hearing protection. Studies indicate noise-induced hearing loss is becoming more common in today's youth, due in part to the popularity of personal entertainment devices such as iPods. Special noise reducing earmuffs are available in children's sizes beginning at $20.

These precautions should help prevent you from damaging your hearing or developing a temporary case of tinnitus; however, if ringing in your ears is chronic, see your family doctor. Other causes of tinnitus include hearing loss, excessive ear wax, and certain medications. The condition may also may be an indicator of other health problems like allergies, high or low blood pressure, tumors or heart-related problems. 

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