Real Simpleanswers your questions.

By Real Simple
Updated August 18, 2010
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Getting engrossed in a good story is a great way to fight off feelings of being disconnected or unhappy. Non-drivers can use an actual book or e-reader, but drivers will want to download an audio book. Many libraries let you borrow audio books for free, and some public library systems actually let you download MP3 and WMA files directly, without showing up to the library.Here’s a trick: Only allow yourself to listen to your book when commuting. That way, a little part of you will actually look forward to your time on the road.
Jim Cooper

Q. I turn up my tunes to drown out background noise. How high is too high?

Chrissy Lopez

Pittsburgh

A. Stay below the volume’s halfway point. For most electronics, this is in the safe zone of 80 decibels or below. “Any louder and, over time, you may suffer noise-induced hearing loss,” says Paul Farrell, an audiologist with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Listen to music through your headphones at your usual volume, then have a pal read this paragraph aloud (in her normal voice) while sitting within arm’s reach. CAN YOU HEAR HER? You should be able to. Be wary of ringing or muffled sounds after you remove your headphones: Both are signs that your tunes are too loud. Safe listening also depends on the amount of time you’re plugged in. According to a recent study in Belgium, participants experienced short-term hearing loss after listening to music on an MP3 player for just one hour; another study suggests that consistently listening to loud music for more than an hour could lead to permanent hearing loss after five years of exposure. So take periodic breaks for your ears to recover. And when choosing headphones, opt for over-the-ear models versus in-ear buds, which tend to produce sound at levels that are five decibels louder.

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