According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD), 15% of adults in the US experience hearing loss to some degree. That’s almost 40 million people.
There are many reasons for hearing loss, from medical conditions, physical damage to the ears or repeated exposure to loud noises at work or at home.
Protecting our hearing is important, especially if we are exposed to loud noises as part of our jobs. Depending on the conditions, there are a number of different types of hearing protection you can use to reduce the chances of experiencing hearing loss. These can be purchased online or recommended by your health professional.
What is hearing protection equipment?
Hearing protection is used to reduce the level of noise reaching your ears, thereby protecting your hearing. Depending on the frequency and level of noise you’re exposed to, you’ll need a different type of protective equipment.
Hearing protection equipment reduces the amount of noise that reaches your ears, this is called attenuation, which is measured in decibels (dB) or simplified noise-level reduction (SNR).
When should you use them?
Whenever you are going to be exposed to loud or continuous noise, you should look to use protective equipment. This most often includes:
- As part of your job
- At loud events such as concerts
- During activities such as shooting and using loud tools
As the name suggests, earplugs are worn inside the ear. In order to protect your hearing health, you need to find ones with 20dB SNR. Many earplugs sold over the counter in retail stores and pharmacies fall well below this threshold, so won’t protect your hearing.
Earplugs made to fir your ears exactly can be more expensive but have many advantages over other types of earplugs. In addition to fitting better and feeling more comfortable, they provide a better level of protection. They will also last you many years when looked after properly.
Reusable plugs are an alternative to both customized and disposable plugs. They are usually made of molded foam or rubber, meaning that you don’t have to stuff them into your ear to make them fit. While they provide better protection than disposable earplugs, they will not fit as well or protect as well as custom-made ones.
Disposable earplugs are usually available to buy in bulk and have to be rolled and inserted into the ear, expanding to fit it. They are useful for short term use in relatively low levels of noise, but not recommended for long term use at high noise levels.
There are a number of specialist earplugs designed for a specific use. For example, the catering industry has earplugs that can be detected if they accidentally fall into food during the production process.
Musicians need to be able to hear the music but still have the level of noise reduced to protect long term hearing health.
There are even earplugs designed for shooting. These will let you hear normally, but work to filter out sudden loud noises.
This type of hearing protection is designed to attach to a chin strap, making it easier for you to take them on and off. They are a good idea if you are in a situation where noises are intermittent and protection isn’t always needed.
This type of ear protection looks more like a pair of music headphones. They form a seal to your head with soft cushions for comfort. As with earplugs, you should choose a set that is suitable for your needs.
Ear defenders usually give a better range of protection at higher frequencies. However, some are specifically designed to protect your hearing while still allowing you to hear alarms or conversations clearly.
There are many different designs of ear defenders. Some come with a foldable headband, others can affix to a protective helmet or face mask. In industry, it is common for communications and radio to be built into the ear defenders too.
Hearing protection is vital to ensure that you avoid noise-induced hearing loss in the future. The type of protection you need depends on several factors including the type, frequency and dB of noise.
Some industries need specialist types of hearing protection with particularly built-in features. If you are unsure which type of hearing protection you need, consult your hearing professional for advice and information. For more information on which earplugs are the best for you contact Hear Again America today at 877-905-9493.