Protect your ears from the Grand Prix whine
If you're thinking about taking your kids to the Honda Grand Prix in downtown St. Petersburg this weekend, don't forget to grab ear plugs. Although the Indy Cars' Honda V-8 engines are slightly quieter this year, they're still loud enough to do some damage.
Freebie foam plugs might be available again this year at the event. These will work fine for adults and older kids, but plugs, which you insert into the outer ear canal, usually don't work well for little ones. My 5-year-old son, who has been going to races the past two years, rejects foam plugs. He dislikes the way they feel in his ears, plus they fall out easily. He prefers over-the-ear muffs, which cover the ears completely.
Try on ear muffs at the store before you buy them, however. Not all fit well for kids. We bought a collapsible model by Silencio, and it squeezed my son's head and face too much. After an hour or so, he became miserable from the pressure. (See photo).
Buy your hearing protection before you go to the race to avoid paying a premium. Here are some you can get locally:
AO Safety reusable corded earplugs (3 pairs): Noise reduction rating of 25 decibels. A plastic cord helps to keep the plugs from getting lost. These are washable and reusable. Home Depot, $4.96 (shown)
Winchester foam plugs (6 pairs): Insert in ear to reduce noise by 32 decibels. Wal-Mart, $1.97
Western Safety industrial ear muffs: Reduces noise by up to 23 decibels. These might fit too tightly for little kids, but adults should be able to tolerate them fine. Harbor Freight, $2.49.
And a final tip: The best place for youngsters to watch the race might be at the north end of the course, by turns 8 and 9. The Pioneer Park area has benches and lawns where kids can roll around and play. The race cars must slow down significantly to make the hairpin turn, so the noise level seems more manageable.
- Lyra Solochek, Times staff writer