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. Once you develop noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) the damage is irreversible. In order to prevent NIHL, it’s important to obtain proper ear protection and learn how to use it correctly.
When it comes to hearing protection options, each Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is different. The overall goal of is obviously to reduce volume, but for hearing protection to be effective, it also has to handle different types of sounds or frequencies in a way that provides adequate protection while letting you hear whatever you’re listening to clearly.
Below are four basic types of hearing protection, along with the pros and cons of each.
Disposable earplugs are typically made out of foam and effective for single usage. They’re comfortable, but don’t offer the utmost protection in very noisy environments.
How to wear properly: Holding the earplug between your fingers, roll the entire plug into a long, crease-free cylinder. Use your free hand to reach around and pull your ear up and back to open your canal for the plug. Insert the plug and hold for about 20 seconds to allow it to expand and fill your canal. When removing, slowly twist earplugs to break the seal. If removed too quickly while seal is in place, the suction could damage your eardrum.
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.
How to wear properly: Reach around and pull your outer ear up and back. This opens up the canal to properly insert the plug. While holding the stem end of the plug, insert it inside your ear canal until you feel it sealing. Make sure they feel comfortable. Use the same tactic for removal as the disposable earplugs. Remember, these plugs require cleaning before putting them back in their storage case to avoid infection.
Earmuffs go completely over the ears, which is 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 NRR because they don’t seal your ear canal.
How to wear properly: Adjust the cups on the earmuffs so that the headband fits comfortably over the crown of your head. For the best results, make sure the cushions of the muffs form as tight a seal as possible over your ears. It’s important to check for wear and tear regularly, and to clean them often.
Custom hearing protection
Custom hearing protection is molded to fit your ears exactly and are made to provide effective protection for specific situations, such as when swimming, out hunting, or in the workplace. 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 any noise or water damage.
How to wear properly: Since each plug is custom-made to fit your individual ear, your hearing care professional will show you how to properly insert and remove them.
We are surrounded by noise every day yet often don’t realize how damaging it can be. Investing in the best possible hearing protection available is a major, yet simple step you can take to protect your hearing.