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Hearing DamageIn the June 24 Today section...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Hearing Damage

In the June 24 Today section of The Sun, writer David Kronke provides a brief "listening lesson." Unfortunately, the lesson is scientifically inaccurate and can lead to unrealized risk of hearing damage.

Numerous national and international studies have been conducted to determine hearing damage susceptibility and these have resulted in governmental standards.

Assuming that the writer is referring to A-weighted sound level, commonly called sound level, he is misleading the readers by stating that noise must be at levels of 130 to 180 decibels to be harmful.

In reality, the maximum safe exposure level for as little as a quarter hour a day is 115 decibels.

In addition to that error, it should be pointed out that normal conversational sound level is about 65 decibels, not 75 as stated in the article.

Louis A. Herstein III

Baltimore

The writer is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.

Insult to Truckers

I found the cartoon featured on the editorial page (The Sun, June 22) very offensive. This cartoon depicts all truck drivers as druggies with no consideration for public safety. I am a professional tractor-trailer driver. I consider public safety a top priority, as does my employer.

We are tested for drugs and alcohol, and, if any are present in our systems, we are suspended or fired. However, under no circumstances would we be allowed to drive a truck.

There are good and bad in every occupation. We have politicians who take bribes, white-collar crime is at an all-time high, police officers who look the other way while a crime is being committed as long as their palms are being greased.

Yes, there are some truck drivers who break the law and drive longer than they should, putting the public at risk. There are also some drivers who take drugs to stay awake. However, I assure you that these are in the minority.

The trucking industry has cleaned up its act quite a bit. Drivers are required to take safety courses and physicals yearly. Trucks are stopped on the highway and checked for mechanical faults.

Truck drivers are not uneducated low-lifes. There are some well educated individuals who drive for a living; to insinuate that we are all a bunch of drug-popping fools is an insult to those drivers who do obey the rules of the road.

I feel that you owe the truck drivers of American an apology. Think about us the next time you go to the store for groceries, clothing, etc. We are the ones getting the goods delivered for you.

Someone should do a story on the good truck drivers, the ones who do obey the laws and do care about public safety.

Maybe you should do an article on the drivers in cars who cut in front of us and cause many of the accidents that trucks are involved in.

Public safety is a two-way street. People forget that you can't stop an 18-wheeler in the same amount of time that you can stop a car.

Yet people continue to pull out in front of us, or cut us off. However, when an accident occurs it is the truck driver who is made to feel like scum.

I sincerely hope that you correct the erroneous image that this cartoon projects about truckers. It is an honest living with a lot of caring people.

Brian Hollingsworth

Bel Air

Kids' TV

As a teacher and counselor, I applaud your July 4 editorial, "Kids' TV and Purple Dinosaurs."

Your words, "Too often nothing shapes a toddler's brain so much as the square box with the bright lights . . . a passive medium incapable of fostering imaginary play, interpersonal skills and physical development," provide a succinct and critically important alert to families with young children.

Maryland Public Television president Raymond K.K. Ho also deserves praise and gratitude for his efforts in conflict resolution. However, it is your final sentence which calls us all to action for our children.

In our global village all children are our children, deserving of our time and our resources.

Jen Hobbins

Baltimore

Seasonal Music

Now that WJHU-FM has largely abandoned its classical music format, we are left in Baltimore with only WBJC-FM for classical music.

It would be desirable, therefore, if WBJC would become a real classical musical station instead of a light classical one. A person who has received his classical music education solely from WBJC would have to be forgiven if he thought that all Mozart ever composed were a few opera overtures, that Brahms wrote only some Hungarian dances and that Johann Strauss Jr. was a major classical music composer.

I don't expect to hear any Shostakovich, Schoenberg or even Mahler on the radio (although most Mahler symphonies have a "pretty" movement suitable for easy listening), but is there some reason we can't hear chamber music occasionally?

And please, let's have a moratorium on all of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" for at least one year.

Henry Cohen

Baltimore

Quinn on Student Loans

Jane Bryant Quinn (June 12) intimates that the federal government's new direct loan consolidation program is a great deal for consumers who are repaying federally-sponsored loans for college.

No simple plan is best for every borrower, and the wise borrower will explore all options before deciding whether this new government program is right for him or her. Loan consolidation is also available under the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), in which private lenders provide the loan capital.

Because interest rates are figured differently under the two programs, borrowers should ask which program provides the better deal. Many borrowers may benefit from the fixed interest rates on FFELP consolidation loans as opposed to the variable rates provided under the direct consolidation loan program.

Both programs offer comparable flexible repayment options, including plans that tie the size of the monthly payments to the borrower's income.

The first stop for every borrower contemplating consolidation of FFELP loans should be to contact a trusted expert, such as the borrower's school or lender.

Bob Murray

Indianapolis, Ind.

The writer is public affairs associate, USA Group Inc., a student loan guarantor-administrator.

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In her recent column comparing the government's new student loan consolidation program with that of the traditional bank-based program, Jane Bryant Quinn inaccurately suggests that the student loan industry is attempting to undermine the government's fledgling program. This is simply not true.

We at Sallie Mae make it a point to accurately inform consumers of their borrowing options and correct the misinformation that may have been conveyed to them. Providing misleading information serves no one's interests. Sallie Mae's long-standing customer philosophy is to provide the best products and service in the industry.

By offering borrowers a variety of special benefits -- including interest rate reductions, 24-hour toll-free service and expeditious application processing -- we believe that informed consumers will continue to seek out Sallie Mae for their education credit needs for many years to come.

Ms. Quinn is right in that many borrowers seeking to consolidate their loans are unaware of all their options. When she suggests, however, that presenting those options to consumers is somehow "sabotage," Ms. Quinn unfairly impugns the reputation for trust and service we have established with our borrowers for over two decades.

In a competitive marketplace, direct loan consolidation is not the only option, nor is it necessarily the best. As a consumer writer who is widely read and respected, Ms. Quinn owes it to her readers to provide a full, balanced story.

'Lydia Micheaux Marshall

Washington

The writer is executive vice president/marketing for the Student Loan Marketing Administration (Sallie Mae).

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