Hearing is an important part of our lives, yet many of us perform daily tasks or work in occupations that put our hearing at risk. In order to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, it’s important to obtain proper ear protection and learn how to use it correctly.
Prolonged exposure to loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, affecting people of all ages. Whether it's the roar of machinery at work, the blaring of music at concerts, or even the constant hum of traffic in a busy city, these environmental noises can gradually erode your hearing abilities.
Noise-induced hearing loss is often a cumulative process that happens over time. The risk increases with the loudness of the noise and the length of exposure. Even short bursts of extremely loud sounds, like fireworks or gunshots, can cause instantaneous damage to the hearing structures in the inner ear.
The unfortunate reality is that once your hearing is damaged, it's usually irreversible. However, the good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is also largely preventable. Utilizing proper ear protection, like custom-fitted earplugs, and being mindful of your exposure to loud environments can go a long way in preserving your hearing for years to come.
How loud does the noise need to be to damage a person’s hearing? Hearing loss can occur when exposed to 85 decibels of noise averaged over 8 hours. Let’s put this in perspective. Normal conversations typically occur at 60 decibels, well below the hearing loss threshold.
Here’s the thing, though. For every 3-decibel increase past 85 decibels, hearing loss can occur in half the amount of time. So, it only takes 4 hours of exposure to 88 decibels for hearing loss to occur, and 2 hours of exposure to 91 decibels. Once noise levels exceed 100 decibels, a person can suffer hearing damage in as little as 15 minutes. The louder the noise, the faster hearing loss occurs.
To choose the right hearing protection for your needs it is important to understand the noise levels that you work and live in. It is recommended that one endures no more than 8 hours of exposure to noise levels of around 80dB. Therefore, understanding the level of noise you are exposed to is important.
A sound meter app on your smartphone is the most convenient way to get an accurate reading of environmental sound levels and there are many apps available, whether you’re on an Android or Apple device.
But which types of hearing protection are out there?
Disposable earplugs are typically made out of foam and are effective for single usage. They’re comfortable, but don’t offer the utmost protection in very noisy environments.
These plugs are pre-formed for the ear canal, washable, and made for multiple uses (although fewer than custom hearing protection). While as effective as the disposable plugs, they cost a bit more and will have to be replaced after a certain number of uses.
Earmuffs go completely over the ears, which can be more comfortable if you don’t like having something inside your ear canal. While they fit everyone, one major downside is that they usually have a lower Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) because they don’t seal your ear canal.
Custom hearing protection options are reusable earplugs that are molded to fit your ears exactly and made to provide effective protection for specific situations. They last several years, and are highly recommended by hearing care professionals for effective protection. Because they are made using a mold of your unique ear canal, they create the perfect seal to prevent noise or water damage.
Types of custom hearing protection include:
If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep due to external noise like traffic or a snoring partner, consider sleep earplugs. Unlike regular earplugs, sleep earplugs are designed with maximum comfort in mind for prolonged use. They fit securely in your ear canal, reducing sound intrusion without causing discomfort.
For those who love to swim or have kids prone to swimmer’s ear, swimming earplugs are a must-have. These earplugs are made from materials that float and are designed to keep water out of your ears, helping to prevent irritations and infections that can occur from water entering the ear canal.
Standard drug-store earplugs don't offer the sound clarity or comfort that musicians require. Custom-fit musician's earplugs are made from medical-grade silicone or acrylic material, offering a comfortable and snug fit. These earplugs also come with customizable sound filters, allowing you to control how much sound is blocked out, which is essential for performers and music lovers alike.
Occupational noise exposure is a real concern for those who work in loud environments like factories, workshops, or even schools. Custom-made earplugs for the workplace come with specialized filters that protect your ears from harmful noise levels while still allowing you to communicate with your coworkers and be aware of your surroundings.
Hunting poses a unique challenge: the need to hear quiet noises like animal movements while protecting your ears from the loud sound of gunshots. Research shows that hunters are at a higher risk of high-frequency hearing loss. Customized hunting earplugs come with filters that can adapt to different noise levels. They allow you to hear softer sounds and automatically dampen louder noises to a safe level, providing an optimal hearing experience.
It is important to protect your hearing while and when you can, because once your ears are damaged by noise related hearing, they can never recover. Contact us at Glendora Hearing Aids to find out more about our custom hearing protection and to get fitted for the most effective protection for your needs. Schedule an appointment today!