3 Tips for Choosing the Right Hearing Protector
Exposure to unsafe levels of noise (which is any noise over 85 decibels in volume) is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. A lot of us live, work, and have fun in some very noisy ways and environments. Prevention is the only cure for noise-induced hearing loss, and hearing protection is an essential part of that. How do you know which type is best for you? Your audiologist can help you make a choice, but here are some factors to think over.
Know the level of noise reduction that you need
First of all, knowing that the hearing protection equipment you select will actually be able to protect you from the levels of noise you’re exposed to is crucial. Hearing protection equipment is measured by the number of decibels it effectively protects you from. So, for example, a pair of earplugs with a 15-dB noise reduction level would be able to your exposure to a 95-dB noise down to a level of 80 dB, which is in the safe range. Most forms of noise protection readily available provide at least 10 dB, and most industrial levels of noise are around the 95-dB mark of below.
However, some environments, such as airports, produce noises considerably louder than 95 dB. For those, you need to ensure you’re getting more protection. At the same time, you must be aware of the risk of too much noise protection. If it gets to the point that it’s impeding your ability to hear the sounds that you need to hear, then you might have to take it off in order to work effectively, which essentially renders them pointless.
Consider the environment you’re using it in
You should also think about the factors of the workplace that you need to consider beyond the levels of noise. For instance, your audiologist can help you create and fit custom molded earplugs that can not only reduce your exposure to environmental noise but can also selectively not suppress or even enhance speech. If communication is essential in the workplace, you can still hear what people are saying to you without having to expose yourself to unsafe levels of noise.
In many cases, hearing protection isn’t the only kind of personal protection equipment that you might need to wear. You may also have to wear a hard hat or goggles to protect you from other risks. As such, there are types of multitasking equipment such as helmets with protected earmuffs attached so that you don’t have to sacrifice one type of protection for the other.
How often you have to remove and wear your protection matters, as well. In general, earmuffs are easier to put on and take off than earplugs, and custom molded earplugs are easier to put in and take out than store-bought foam earplugs. If your hands are likely to be covered in dirt, grime or other residues, you also want to avoid touching your ears too much, so earmuffs may be safer.
Comfort and practicality always matter
Comfort might sound like it’s more of an optional factor, but the truth is that if you have to wear hearing protection for a long stretch of time, discomfort can very quickly become impossible to ignore. You should be able to wear your hearing protection comfortably for as long as you need it. If you only it very occasionally and intermittently, then foam earplugs might be an effective solution for you.
However, since foam earplugs aren’t built to suit the shape of your ear, continuous wear isn’t what they’re best suited to. In that case, you might want to consider having your audiologist help you create a pair of custom earplugs that are designed using a mold of your ears. Custom earplugs also provide more effective protection, longer usage times and more comfort.
Earmuffs, on the other hand, fit over the ears rather than inside them, so not only are they are easier to remove and put on, but there are rarely any problems with fitting them. However, if you prefer an in-ear option, earmuffs may not be a compatible fit for your particular wants and needs.
Don’t choose it alone
Choosing hearing protection when you’re not trained to recognize which might be the best option can be a little difficult without professional advice. The help of an audiologist, familiar with the different types of hearing protection, as well as how different risks affect your hearing, can make it much easier. Feel free to learn more or to arrange an appointment with Tops Hearing & Balance Center at 281-920-3911.