Did you know that 4 million people go to work every day in an environment filled with damaging noise? According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million Americans are exposed to damaging noise in the workplace annually, and at least 10 million people in the United States suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs within the ear canal become permanently damaged. These hairs are responsible for picking up sound waves; once they become damaged, they cannot regenerate and the damage is permanent. As such, it is important to protect your hearing and ears when in noisy environments.

What’s too loud?

Hearing protection is needed when the sound a person is exposed to is over 85 decibels. Sounds that are over this threshold include:

  • Busy street: 75-85 dB
  • Lawn mower: 85 dB
  • Forklift truck: 90 dB
  • Car horn: 110 dB
  • Chainsaw: 115-120 dB
  • Rock concert or ambulance siren: 120 dB

Types of hearing protection

There are three main types of hearing protection that people can wear to help reduce the impact of noisy environment and risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss. These include earplugs, earmuffs and semi-insert earplugs.

Earplugs are premolded/preformed or moldable foam plugs that can be inserted into the ear canal. They are available as disposable or reusable and can be found in most drug stores and grocery stores. Additionally, custom-molded earplugs are available and can be made by visiting your audiologist or other hearing healthcare professional.

Semi earplugs don’t go fully into the ear canal like regular earplugs. These stay in place just over the ear canals by a rigid headband that connects the earplugs together. They are not custom made and do not always work for every person.

Earmuffs are made with sound-attenuating material and soft ear cushions that fit around the hard outer cups. They are held together with a headband. They are quite adept at muffling sound out, protecting people from over exposure to loud noises.

When trying to determine which ear protection is suitable for your specific needs, don’t hesitate to talk with your audiologist. The audiologist will be able to evaluate your exposure to damaging noises and recommend the best ear protection to keep your ears happy and healthy!