By JANE E. BRODY
Noise, not age is the leading cause of hearing loss. Unless you take steps now to protect to your ears, sooner or later many of you and your children will have difficulty understanding even ordinary speech.
Tens of millions of Americans, including 12 percent to 15 percent of school-age children, already have permanent hearing loss caused by the everyday noise that we take for granted as a fact of life.
"The sad truth is that many of us are responsible for our own hearing loss," writes Katherine Bouton in her new book, "Shouting Won't Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can't Hear You." The cause, she explains, is "the noise we blithely subject ourselves to day after day."
While there are myriad regulations to protect people who work in noisy environments, there are relatively few governing repeated exposure to noise outside the workplace: portable music de