All about hearing protection

All About Hearing Protection

In Hearing Health, Hearing Protection, Research by Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS

Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS

The world we live in is rich with so many diverse noises and sounds.  While sound can often be pleasing, too much sound can begin to irritate our minds and our ears. Some noises can damage our hearing, leading to ringing in the ears referred to as tinnitus, and difficulty communicating. Unfortunately, noise-induced hearing damage is incurable which makes it imperative that you protect your hearing from dangerous noises if you want to preserve your hearing for the future.  One of the most effective ways to protect your hearing from harmful noise, if you must be exposed, is hearing protection. Hearing protection comes in so many styles, materials, color, and sizes and knowing which kind is best for you could protect your hearing for years to come.

How Much Noise Reduction Do You Need?

The first consideration in choosing a hearing protector is whether it will block enough noise to reduce your exposure to a safe level. If you work in a setting immersed in industrial noise, most exposures are less than 95 dBA, which means most workers require no more than about 10 dB of noise reduction to meet the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit of 85 dBA. Almost any hearing protector, when fit correctly, can provide 10 dB of sound reduction. If you do not know the noise levels at your worksite, you can measure them.  There are many smartphone apps available now to measure the level of sound exposure in the work place.

Louder environments create a need for higher levels of noise reduction, but it’s important not to reduce sound too much as this can lead  to you feeling isolated and less aware of your surroundings. Overprotection can be counterproductive, as you may feel the need to remove your hearing protector to hear someone speak or listen to your equipment. Aim for just enough noise reduction to bring your exposure down to 75-85 dBA.

If you are exposed to noise levels 100 dBA or greater (such as chainsaws or jackhammers) or if you are exposed to impulsive sounds (such as nail gun or weapons noise), you should wear double hearing protection (earmuffs over earplugs).

Your Worksite and Job Tasks

It’s important to consider what job/s you do at work and what kind of hearing protection is appropriate for the job. Consider also whether the noise at your job is continuous or if it stops and starts at various times during the day. Do you stay in the same place for most of the workday, or move from one area to another? Earmuffs are easier to remove and replace than earplugs, so they may be better for intermittent noise exposures. If earmuffs are not an option due to other issues (e.g., compatibility with other PPE), pre-formed earplugs may be easier to remove and replace than foam plugs.

Finally, think about how frequently you need to hear speech while wearing hearing protection. If spoken communication is common, or if high fidelity sound is important for other reasons like you are a musician, flat attenuation hearing protectors may be helpful. Special communication headsets can also improve speech communication in very loud environments.

What is Most Comfortable and Convenient

Once you have narrowed your selection down to hearing protectors that are appropriate for your noise exposure and compatible with your worksite and job tasks, the choice is completely up to you! However, hearing protection only works if you wear it consistently and correctly every time you are exposed to hazardous noise, so choose a protector that is comfortable and convenient.

Advanced Tech Hearing Aid Centers

At Advanced Tech Hearing Aid Centers, we take protecting your hearing seriously!  If you need more information on the best ways to protect your hearing we can recommend the best hearing protection for you.  If your hearing has suffered damage already as so many of us have, we can test your hearing to find out the extent of the damage. If you suspect you have hearing loss don’t delay another day.  Contact us to set up a hearing test as soon as possible.  The sooner you treat hearing loss the sooner you can get back to your life, hearing and living to your fullest potential.