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Movie's Can Hurt Hearing

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( months Academy Awards will tout motion pictures galore, but theres something far less entertaining that movies may produce: Hearing loss. Doctors say that despite warnings in recent years about the damaging effects of theatres booming sound systems, many cinemas still blare high-decibel soundtracks.

Youre not going to lose your hearing from going to one movie, but it adds up over the years, says Dr. Ravi N. Samy, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. And that means hearing loss, which affects more than 20 million people in the United States

Because hair cells inside the ear damaged by high-volume noise cant repair themselves, the damage is permanent, even for youngsters. The rule of thumb is that if you cant hold a normal conversation over the noise, its too loud, Dr. Samy says. Lawn mowers, car stereos, rifles and pistols, power tools, and radio earphones can also be culprits.

Dr. Samy says its prudent to avoid theaters and catch your favorite flick once it hits the rental store. If you cant put off seeing first-run movies at the theatre, doctors advise that you wear earplugs. The same goes if you shoot guns or work with loud power tools, even if its just mowing your lawn.

Most ear plugs cost $5 to $10 a pack. Its well worth the investment, he says.

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