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The sounds of New Year’s Eve—blaring music, fireworks, and party horns, kazoos, and other noisemakers—signify celebration, but they can also wreak havoc on your ears.

As people all over the world prepare to ring in the new year, here are five tips to help prevent temporary or even permanent ringing in your ears or other hearing damage, courtesy of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):

  1. Keep your distance from noise sources. At a concert or show? Setting off fireworks? If you are participating in an especially noisy activity, try to keep a distance of at least 500 feet from the noise emitter—such as a stage, speaker, or fireworks launch site.
  2. Wear hearing protection. Earplugs or earmuffs offer great hearing protection at concerts, at fireworks displays, in the middle of Times Square, and in many other loud environments. Simple drugstore earplugs are cheap and effective, or you can get a pair of musician’s earplugs or a custom pair from an audiologist for even better protection.
  3. Take listening breaks. Excusing yourself for even a couple of minutes every hour can give your ears a much-needed rest. Step away from the noise at least a few times throughout a night of extended celebration, especially if you are in an environment such as a party or loud restaurant that doesn’t lend itself to wearing earplugs.
  4. Download a sound-level app. How loud is too loud? In general, 75–80 decibels is considered a safe level of noise exposure. Not sure of the noise level where you are? Use one of the many sound-level apps available for download in Apple and Android stores. These aren’t always 100% accurate, but they can give you a good idea of what you are being exposed to—and help inform some positive other steps like taking breaks if the noise is excessive.
  5. Know your limits. If you are experiencing ringing in your ears or any other ear discomfort, leave! Listen to what your body is telling you. If you continue to experience ringing, discomfort, or trouble hearing the next day, seek a hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist (you can find one here).

More than 1.1 billion people ages 12–35 are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noisy leisure settings and noisy personal technology devices, according to the World Health Organization. Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable, but once it occurs, it’s irreversible. Take these steps to protect your hearing as you welcome in 2020 and beyond.

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