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Monday, December 04, 2006

Device Combats Hearing Loss, Says Research Institute

Addressing what it calls a spiraling hearing-loss epidemic, developers at the Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) have introduced a hand-held safety device, Ear3, that signals when hazardous noise puts users at risk of permanent hearing damage.

According to the institute's executive director, Dr. Ronald Webster, Ear3 was created to reduce the incidence of people experiencing hearing loss from repeated exposure to workplace noise, loud music, machinery and recreational equipment.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that 28 million Americans have some hearing loss, with more than one-third attributed to noise-induced causes.

"As consumers, we use bicycle helmets for head protection, sunglasses for eye protection, and seatbelts for accident protection. We need to take our hearing just as seriously," Webster says.

Today, audiologists are not only treating the growing senior population, but are seeing more people in their 30's and 40's than ever before. In addition, the surge in MP3 players and loud car stereo use is contributing to increased hearing loss among youth.

A February study commissioned by the American Speech- Language-Hearing-Association revealed that more than half of high school students surveyed who used MP3 players reported at least one symptom of hearing loss.

The National Institutes of Health reports that regular exposure to sound pressure at 85 decibels (such as restaurant or city traffic noise) for an extended length of time can produce permanent hearing damage. Noises created by motorcycles, mowers and loud MP3 players are far more damaging with limited unprotected exposure.

Webster points out that few people realize the risk of exposure to hazardous sounds. That's where the Ear3 can help. Unlike other devices that measure decibel levels, Ear3 is a hearing-threat detector that signals when noise exceeds safe listening levels.

About the size of an iPod, Ear3 is designed with a sound chamber that simulates a human ear canal for accurate sound readings when using ear buds or headsets, and when evaluating sounds from more distant sources.

HCRI is a non-profit organization based in Roanoke, Virginia that develops innovative stuttering treatments and advances in hearing assistance. The Ear3 device, developed by HCRI, is being produced and distributed by Ear3 LLC.

Colored lights indicate sound safety levels so the user can take immediate action by using ear plugs, adjusting sound volume, or changing environments. For more information on the Ear3, visit

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