All About Hearing Protection

All About Hearing Protection

Ron Middleton Hearing loss prevention

Ron Middleton

Ron has been a part of the Lifestyle team helping people hear better since 2005. Before joining our team, Ron served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years. As a Master Sergeant, he was Superintendent of Wing Aircrew Life Support and oversaw a staff of nearly 100. For the past decade, Ron has contributed to the community through leadership roles in the Tucson Downtown Lions Club.
Ron Middleton

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The world we live in is full of hustle and bustle. Unless you barricade yourself into your home and sound-proof all of your walls, then you will be surrounded by sounds from the day you are born until the day you die. Most of the sounds that surround us are not harmful to our hearing and do not lead to hearing loss. However, occasions can arise when we are exposed to loud noises that can damage our ears and lead to partial or total hearing loss, constant ringing in the ears known as tinnitus, and the inability to communicate effectively especially when there is background noise happening around the point of conversation that we are attempting to have.

If you are a person whose life calls for you to be exposed to loud, damaging noises on a regular basis, then you know that simply walking away or turning down the volume is not always an option.

There are several options for hearing protection out there that all come in different sizes, strengths, materials they are made with, colors, etc. Ear protection devices are designed to keep the world out and keep your ears safe when you are in a loud situation, meaning that every kind of ear protection device is able to do something different for you. Below you will find a guide that will help you find the right type of ear protection for you so that you do not experience any permanent or temporary ear damage.

How much noise do you need to drown out?

The first thing to ask yourself when you start looking for ear protection is how much noise do you need to block out for the remaining exposure to be down to a safe level. If you are like most people who work in the industry sector, then you probably need nothing more than a noise protector that blocks out 10dB of noise taking the usual 95 dBA of noise down to a safe level of 85dBA which is not damaging to the eardrums. Basically, every regular type of ear protection that fits correctly into your ear canal will help block out 10dB of sound meaning you can go to almost any hardware store and pick up whatever cheap option they have and be just fine.

If you work in an environment that is louder than normal, then you will need a noise reducer that is a little stronger. However, you do not want to get a noise reducer that blocks out too much noise as that can have the opposite effect that you want; instead of just protecting your ears, too much reduction in sound can actually endanger you by dulling your senses and awareness to what is happening around you. You want to aim for a noise reducer that will lower the sound around you to a safe level of 75-85 dBA. If you are unsure whether you have too much or too little noise reduction, you can measure the noise level in your surroundings with a NIOSH sound level meter.

When buying your new ear protection equipment, it is vital that you make sure it fits properly into your ear. Most workplaces that are so loud they require ear protection will provide you with a fit-testing session to make sure your protection fits into your ear correctly; if it does not, you can always test it on your own by doing a cupping test over your ears. If your ear protection fits right, your voice should sound the exact same when your hand is cupped over your ears as it does when you remove your hands from around your ears. If you are working in a place where you are exposed to over 100dBA of noise on a consistent basis or have impulsive sounds like weapons or nail guns popping off near you, then you want to wear double the ear protection as you normally would, so you would wear earmuffs and earplugs at the same time.

Where do you work and what do you do

Though the noise level of your job-site is perhaps the most important thing to think about when considering what type of ear protection to buy, it is not the only thing you need to think about. You should also think about several other characteristics of your job for example, do you have to wear a type of protective headgear that could compromise the effectiveness of earplugs like a hard hat, do you have to wear goggles that could cause earmuffs to not fit snugly on your head like it is supposed to block out noise, etc. Hearing protection can come in traditional ways, and it can also be customized to still fit your ears the way it is supposed to no matter what other equipment you may have on your face while you work.

Noise levels in your workplace may be continuous the entire time you work, or it may stop and start throughout the day. You also might not stand in a noisy spot the entire time you work, but you may rather move around a lot throughout the day going from a noisy place to a quiet on. In these cases, you may want to get ear protection in the form of earmuffs as they are easier to put on and take off than earplugs are.

You should also think about how dirty you get at work. You may work in a place that is just loud and never gets dirty, if that is the case then foam earplugs are a great option for blocking out noise. However, if you work in a place where you get dirty often, stay away from foam earplugs so that you do not get your ear canal filled with dirt and germs every time you put the plugs in your ear. other considerations to think about before buying hearing loss prevention aids are:

  • Is the space you work in a confined space?
  • Do you work in a place that has extreme weather conditions whether it be hot or cold making certain ear protection uncomfortable to wear?
  • How often do you need to be able to hear someone talking to you while you have hearing protection on? If you need to speak to communicate with others often, then flat ear protection is best.
  • Will any type of generic hearing protection be sufficient or do you need custom hearing protection aids?

What type of ear protection is most comfortable to wear?

Once you have thought through what kind of hearing protection you need to work or do your tasks safely without damaging your ears, you can then look at your possible choices and decide what to get based on personal preference. Some people think that earplugs are more comfortable than earmuffs and vice versa. Other people are fine with traditional hearing protectors they can buy at any store while others prefer custom hearing protection. Whatever you decide to get, it is important to test out your choice and make sure it fits properly, will be practical for workdays, won’t block out all the noise so you stay aware on the worksite, is easy to store and access, and painless to put on and take off every single time. Keep your hearing safe by finding ear protection that fits well and helps with hearing loss prevention!

Lifestyle Hearing Solutions

At Lifestyle Hearing Solutions, we’re just as concerned about prevention as we are about hearing loss treatment. Contact us to learn more about our custom hearing protection solutions.