Jets roar overhead. Horns blast. Construction site jackhammers pound. Music blares from portable stereos. The noise of the city can be painful, irritating, anxiety-provoking and even debilitating in the long run. Though noise is a fact of urban life, here are some ways health experts recomment to protect the ears:
* Wear hearing protctors to prevent exposure to blasts of noise or just to muffle the din. Several types are available, from inexpensive moldable foam earplugs, found in drug and hardware stores, to elaborate cups that cover the whole ear, useful in loud work places. The disposable foam earplugs don't shut out sound completely, but they considerably lower the decibel level. Warnings and even conversation can still be heard.
* Limit periods of exposure. Severalbrief periods of noise are healthier than one long exposure. That would apply particularly to sounds an individual can choose, such as music and television.
* Be careful with Walkman-type stereos. "It's too loud if the wearer can feel vibrations," one expert says.
* Get a hearing check-up. Many people who have regular dental and eye exams haven't had a hearing test since elementary school. Ears aren't included in most physical exams unless there is a specific concern.
* Choose a quiet place to live. When hunting for a home, go to the neighborhood more than once. Often people will look at homes on Sunday afternoon, then discover after they move in that it's a different noise story on weekdays. Check the location of firehouses and railroad tracks. Ask neighbors.
* Make home a quieter place. Put foam pads under appliances, and buy the quietest appliances possible (some are labeled with decibel levels). Caulk windows and install storm windows. Put in padded carpeting and thick linoleum. Use heavy drapes and acoustical ceiling tiles to help absorb sound. Replace metal garbage cans with plastic ones. Turn down the television and stereo.
* If pregnant, limit exposure to loud noise, especially in the first months.
* Become aware of noise standards in your community and of local groups that deal with noise.