Dear Readers: According to the American Osteopathic Association, one in five teenagers suffers from hearing loss to some degree. That’s a rate about 30 percent higher than in the 1980s or ’90s, and is believed to be due in part to headphones and ear buds. The volume and duration of noise are important factors in reducing the ability to hear clearly. The best way to handle that gradual loss of hearing is to limit the amount of time ear buds and headphones are used, and to keep the volume low enough to hear background noises as well.

Dear Heloise: When we travel, we usually set a timer on our lights while we're gone so that they go on and off at different times to give the impression that we're home. Since we have two cars, we park one in the driveway. We also have the post office hold all of our mail, and we let a trusted neighbor know how to reach us if there is an emergency. You can't be too careful when you're out of town.

Shirley and Jack E., High Point, N.C.

Dear Heloise: When I wash and dry my bedding, I carefully fold my sheets and one pillowcase, then slip them into the second pillowcase. This way, nothing gets lost, and it's much easier to store in my linen closet.

Zeena T., Sitka, Alaska

Dear Heloise: People who drive should have an emergency road kit with them, whether they're going to the store down the street or to another state. Besides a spare tire, I have the following in my car:

Fire extinguisher, blanket, flashlight, flares, aerosol tire-inflation cans, jumper cables, a small pocket address book with important numbers, and an umbrella.

Some of my friends recommend a gas can and a gallon of water as well.

Doug A., Orem, Utah

Dear Heloise: How many of us have said, "I can't throw that out because I might need it someday"? Well, here are some things that should be pitched out now:

* Broken tools.

* Clothing you never wear or that is older than your last adult offspring.

* Empty boxes and coffee cans.

* Magazines you swore you'd read but didn't.

* Near-empty cans of paint.

Bailey S., Flagstaff, Ariz.

Dear Heloise: Before any of my winter things are stored away for the coming warm months, I make sure to never store dirty clothing. It's cleaned first, then packed away. Leather and fur are stored in cloth garment bags or wrapped in a sheet, never in plastic. All winter clothing is in a closet, away from sunlight, and I use cedar balls in a mesh bag to ward off moths. Boots are stuffed with crumpled newspaper or leftover Christmas wrapping paper. In the autumn, I'm always glad I took the effort to pack my clothing properly.

Connie J., Poseyville, Ind.

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