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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Convertibles Hazardous to Your Hearing?

Wind in Your Hair, Noise in Your Ears: Too Much Top-Down Driving May Harm Hearing, Researchers Say

Noise Reduction Remedies

Putting up the windows -- never mind how geeky some feel that looks -- can cut noise exposure, Michael says. "If you have the top down and put the windows up, it drops the average to 84 decibels'' for five of the seven cars, he says.

Putting up the wind guard on the car may reduce noise, too, Michael says. Earplugs would help, too, he says.

Another idea is to carefully choose your top-down driving location. ''Mainly the problem is with highway driving," he says, as that is a higher-speed environment but also often has heavier traffic than city streets or rural roads, which adds to the noise of the wind and the car noise.

Second Opinion

Two audiologists who reviewed the study results for WebMD call the research interesting and say it couldn't hurt for convertible drivers to exercise some caution for their hearing health.

So do the study results suggest there is reason for concern? Yes, says Alison Grimes, the head of the audiology clinic at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "I would qualify that by saying if you drive eight hours a day, seven days a week you have a much greater concern than if you drive two hours on a Sunday afternoon."

Rolling up the windows, as Michael suggested, is an option, Grimes says. "Anything you can do to put up a barrier between you and the sound."

The research, she says, "is sort of a reminder that noise comes from sources we don't even think about."

Driving your convertible with the top down, she says, "is a little bit like eating unhealthy food. You can do it occasionally, but don't go overboard. There are unintended consequences you don't want to deal with.''

"I think people should be cautious," says Debbie Abel, an audiologist in Poway, Calif., and director of reimbursement for the American Academy of Audiology. She says she has noticed more drivers putting the convertible top down and the windows up.

If drivers are considering earplugs, Abel suggests they first check with their state's motor vehicle department to find out whether they are permitted by law.

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