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July 7, 2004

Speedway race's roar is taken down a notch

From: Charlotte Observer (subscription), NC - Jul 7, 2004

Concord track proves perfect place to educate fans about hearing loss

Special Correspondent

CONCORD - The roaring of race cars made a perfect setting on a recent Tuesday evening for passing out earplugs and information on hearing loss to the public at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Representatives from the Charlotte Regional Resource Center for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing distributed more than 400 sets of earplugs to those attending the speedway's Summer Shootout Series races. They were aiming especially at children, who often have difficulty obtaining hearing protection devices.

The Charlotte office of the state agency serves 10 counties in the southern central Piedmont, including Cabarrus and Rowan.

Often forced to shout over the thundering roar from inside the track, Susan Wilson, the Resource Center's hard-of-hearing services specialist, greeted willing recipients on the speedway's concourse.

She gladly handed out the materials, sponsored by Med-El, a cochlear implant hearing device manufacturer based in Durham. Fellow staffer Larry Smolik and volunteer Dean Perry helped with the distribution.

"Over 1 million people in North Carolina have some form of hearing loss," said Wilson, "and the biggest cause is noise."

Wilson, who has a cochlear implant, said any noise that registers at 85 decibels or higher can cause hearing damage. According to the Resource Center's literature, one race car emits sound at 115 decibels. Multiply that figure by any number of cars on the track at a given time, and the racket can be, well, deafening.

Jon DeCoste of Huntersville attended the races on a recent Tuesday evening with his children Kristen, 8, Jack, 7, and Eric, 4. DeCoste said he appreciates the need for proper ear protection because of the type of work he does for Duke Power.

His children gladly accepted new sets of plugs from Wilson, who said the plastic foam ones the DeCostes arrived with were not as effective as those that she and her assistants distributed. They're made of a gummy substance that more easily conforms to one's ear.

Wilson said her agency focused on distributing the plugs to children because the ones sold inside the gift shop at the speedway, which cordially welcomed the Resource Center's program, are designed for adults.

"They won't fit the kids," she said. "They'll pop out of their ears."

Jennifer Bruce of Concord said she and her daughters, Alexis, 10, and Katelynn, 5, are regulars at the speedway races. But they arrived without their earplugs because they decided to come at the last minute. They gratefully accepted the substitute pairs they received from the Resource Center.

"That's good for (the children)," Bruce said. "It's good that they do it (at an) early age."

Wilson said her group handed out similar materials and supplies at NASCAR races at Lowe's from 2001 to 2003 but opted for this year's Summer Shootout Series in order to reach a different crowd of race fans.

Freelance writer Joe Habina lives in Kannapolis.

© 2004 Charlotte Observer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.