Bright Ideas

The FBI wants to help youngsters understand more about its activities, pick up safety tips and even understand what a typical day in the life is like for an agent. The Bureau has set aside part of its website just for kids, with a series of cartoon characters and some fun games to play. Find the section at:

Research Advances Tinnitus Treatments

Tinnitus is commonly described as “ringing in the ears” but it can actually manifest as almost any type of persistent sound, from buzzing through hissing to shrieking, that not only interferes with hearing but, in extreme, cases also can seriously impact quality of life. As many as 1 in 5 people suffer from it to some degree.

Researchers have not fully pinned down the cause and there is no known cure. But new treatments are becoming available all the time. Recent thinking includes listening to certain types of sound that mask the tinnitus or even reduce it, cochlear implants, and a new technique calls acoustic neural stimulation – a device that sends a signal to stimulate change in key circuits of the brain.

If you suffer from this disorder, speak to your physician. You can also learn more from the American Tinnitus Association –

Watch Out for Charges on 0% Card Transfers

Most of these 0% deals relate to transfer of balances from another card and usually allow the customer 12 months to clear this balance without paying interest.

However, in some cases, if you subsequently use the card for another purchase and clear that sum in your next payment cycle, you may find the sum you paid is deducted from the balance you transferred and you’re now going to be charged interest. Here’s an example:

  1. You transfer a $1,000 card balance to the new 0% card.
  2. You use the card for a $500 purchase.
  3. You pay the card company $500 within the payment cycle.
  4. But the card company deducts that $500 from the $1,000 balance you transferred.
  5. You’ll now have a 0% balance of $500 and have to pay interest on the $500 you spent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a warning about this and other misleading 0% marketing, Read it here:

Bright Ideas

You get in your car, fire the ignition and then spot what looks like a $100 bill stuck under the windshield wiper. You jump out to get it and a car thief slides into your seat and drives away, leaving you with a dud $100 bill in your hands. It’s a slick new trick. Don’t fall for it. If you must get out to check, switch off and take your keys with you.

Protecting Your Precious Hearing

Did you get a mailshot in the past month or so about a “miracle” hearing aid? You shouldn’t be surprised. Most of us get them, and here’s the reason: One out of every 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects his or her ability to understanding normal speech.

When you think that the vast majority of these are adults and that another huge additional proportion of people have less significant hearing damage, you start to get a picture of how serious an issue it is – and why so many companies sell hearing aids!

But the fact is there’s a lot we can and should be doing right now to protect our hearing, both in the workplace and elsewhere. There are two key actions:

Lower the Volume:

We live in a noisy world but we make things worse for ourselves by setting the volume too high on our portable and home music players. Likewise, attending noisy rock concerts has been shown to cause permanent hearing damage. Maybe you still want to go but you should know the risks and try to avoid sitting too close to amplified speakers.

Wear Hearing Protection:

30 million Americans are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace. Add to that the noise we generate at home running motors, in the yard, in the workshop or indoors. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), you should wear hearing protectors in a noisy workplace or when using power tools, yard equipment or firearms – or when riding a motorcycle or snowmobile.

There are two main types of hearing protector: earplugs you insert into the outer ear canal, which must be sealed snugly; and earmuffs that fit over the entire ear.

How Much is Too Much?

The AAO says continual exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dB) is dangerous. As a guide, normal conversation takes place at about 60dB, a lawnmower or truck traffic is about 90dB. A rock concert will pump out 115dB and a gun blast or jet engine fires out about 150dB.

Is Your Hearing Damaged?

How can you tell if your hearing is damaged?

Well you may suffer ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus (see below) or simply have difficulty understanding what people say. In either case, you should seek professional advice and arrange a hearing test.

It may be only a temporary problem, such as that caused by ear wax or an ear infections, but these still require professional advice and treatment.

Electric Blankets: Safe or Risky?

Are electric blankets safe or dangerous? It’s a common question that has different answers depending on who you speak to. So we went to the independent Electric Blanket Institute. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Don’t buy a blanket unless it has either the “UL” or “ETL” safety mark on it.
  • A good blanket lasts five years with reasonable care and should then be considered for replacement.
  • Don’t allow infants or small children to use them – or any others who may not be able to detect a malfunction that could cause overheating.
  • You probably shouldn’t use one during pregnancy – not because there’s any hard evidence it could cause harm but as a simple precaution. But you can still use one to pre-heat the bed.
  • If you wear a pacemaker, check with your doctor – although there’s no evidence of problems.
  • Diabetics should not use a blanket, again because of possible insensitivity to heat – but you can still use them to pre-heat.
  • If you’re concerned about electromagnetic fields buy a low voltage blanket that converts the AC current to DC.

Bright Ideas

Finding critical information during a power disruption just got a whole lot easier – at least for those with Android smart phones and tablets. The Department of Energy has released a new, free app called Lantern Live to provide and share details about local gas stations and outages during emergencies and severe weather events.