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KFMA MORNING HOST RECOVERING FROM EAR DAMAGE

Todd Fooks, the morning show host at KFMA 92.1 FM, has spent much of the last month recovering from ear trauma triggered by a trip to a local gun range.

"We shot for about an hour, and at the end of that I was functionally deaf," said Fooks, who goes by "Fook" on the air. "I could feel words and sounds more than I could hear them."

Fooks describes the event as an inevitable tipping point caused by years of inconsistent habits at other loud activities, certainly not an uncommon practice for a radio DJ.

"I remember a Tool show in Chicago where I didn't wear any protection and remember my ears ringing after that," Fooks said. "I've been to a couple Metallica shows where I didn't wear any protection. I started wearing some (earplugs) at some shows, but certainly not all of them."

Although he was familiar with the phenomenon of ringing in the ears, the latest incident was significantly more problematic.

"I could barely hear conversation on the TV. I was freaked out," Fooks said. "It gradually got better to where I could make out conversation by the next day, but my ears were still ringing like crazy, and I realized at that point I had some ear damage. Everything sounds super-jarring. It's strange when they say you have hearing loss because everything is actually amplified. I went to Trader Joe's four days after it happened and there were two kids fighting with each other, someone else had a squeaky shopping cart, a worker dropped a pallet of potatoes down really hard, and all of that combined made it sound like Vietnam. Nothing sounded like it should. Everything was fried. Some people like to say it's like a blown speaker. I prefer fried because it all has this kind of crunch."

Fooks took a week off work after the incident and has seen consistent progress since, even though he estimates it might be another six weeks before his hearing can assimilate the complexities of music again.

"You don't know if you're getting better or if your brain is processing information differently," Fooks said. "There's a lot going on in music and it still has that fried sensation to me. It's one of the things you take for granted, but when you can't hear it right, it's something you can't enjoy."

Although it looks like the worst is behind him, Fook is taking his wake-up call seriously. The incident, which is fairly common for those in professions where loud noise is consistently part of the work environment, has made Fook something of an expert at preventing hearing loss.

Fooks speaks about the importance of regular cleanings—Don't use a Q-Tip, he says. It just pushes ear wax deeper into the ear canal and leads you to turn up the volume even more—and he says he will wear earplugs at any event where loud noise is a factor. His current ringing sensation, Fooks says, is a reminder that those sorts of precautions are a really good idea. As is paying attention to what your body is trying to tell you.

"One thing I ignored, I was physically jumping when the guns went off. If you think it's uncomfortable, your ears think it's uncomfortable and you're most likely doing damage to your ears. It's not something you're supposed to get used to. That's a warning sign," Fooks said. "If it sounds like that, you need to take measures."

As for the ringing in his ears, "I imagine I'll have some degree of that for the rest of my life, which is kind of scary, but it's something livable. I think I'm less concerned about hearing the last two octaves of Mariah Carey's range than hearing what I can hear and hearing it the way I should be hearing, recognizing sounds like other people do.

"Life was going pretty good for me, then all of a sudden life goes to shit," Fooks said. "Radio makes me very, very happy. I've tried some other careers, and I was miserable. This is one of those accidents that turns your life upside down, but I'm happy it's not as bad as it could have been."


1290 AM TO BROADCAST TUCSON PADRES GAMES

KCUB 1290 AM and the Tucson Padres have come to terms on broadcasting games for the minor league baseball team this year. Most Padres games, home and away, will air live unless there's a conflict with UA baseball. If that's the case, the Padres broadcasts will be tape-delayed.

The season begins Thursday, April 4, in Salt Lake City. The first Padres home game is April 12 against Fresno. Tim Hagerty enters his third year as the team's play-by-play voice.

And now, for the obligatory disclosure: I work at KCUB as co-host of pre- and postgame shows for UA football and men's basketball, and occasionally in a fill-in capacity for the station's local sports-talk show, In the House, which airs weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

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