Tag: hearing protection

Are Portable Music Players Putting Your Ears at Risk?

Turn the Music Up, Dude — But Not Past 85 Decibels

You probably use your tablet or smartphone often to stream music, TV shows, or movies. In fact, many websites these days auto-play videos regardless of whether you want them to.

Smartphones, tablets, and other types of portable music players (PMPs) are now commonplace, as are earbuds and headphones. But if your PMP is turned up too loud while wearing earbuds or headphones, you can damage your hearing quickly. Let’s look at why.

NIHL

This isn’t some new sports league — NIHL stands for noise-induced hearing loss, and it’s the second-largest cause of hearing loss worldwide.

You’re able to hear because of hair cells in your inner ear. These cells convert sound signals to electrical signals and send them to your brain, where they’re interpreted as sounds. But loud sounds can actually damage or destroy your hair cells.

Every time a hair cell gets damaged, you lose a little bit of your ability to hear, and that damage can’t be repaired. The result is NIHL.

How Headphones Hurt Your Hearing

Navigating noise is all about the decibels (a measure of sound pressure). You’re safe if the sound in question stays below 85 decibels (dB); above that, you’re in the action zone — protect your ears or risk hearing damage.

For comparison:

  • A clothes dryer = 60 dB
    No need for hearing protection
  • A gas lawn mower = 91 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 2 hours
  • A tractor =100 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 15 minutes
  • A chain saw = 112 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in less than 1 minute

Some PMPs can generate 112 dB — in other words, if you like to listen to your PMP at full volume, you’re likely pumping a chain saw’s worth of noise at your ears from centimeters away.

Why Protecting Your Hearing Matters

Hearing loss is connected to overall health in surprising ways. It’s been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and other health concerns.

But it’s not just a concern for later in life: One study found that any degree of hearing loss early in life increases a child’s risk for language and learning problems.

Considering that one study of PMP use in 9-to 11-year-olds reported that 9 in 10 children and teens use some form of audio-streaming device for education or recreation, PMPs pose a considerable hearing health risk at all ages.

Indeed, that same study found that 14 percent of the children had measurable hearing loss. In addition, if a child listened to their PMP only once or twice a week, it doubled their chances of hearing loss compared to children who didn’t use a PMP.

What You Can Do

  • Enforce the 60/60 rule. Don’t turn the volume of your PMPs up past 60 percent of full volume, and turn the device off completely after listening for 60 minutes so your ears can have a break.
  • Use headphones instead of earbuds. With earbuds, you pick up background noise, which often leads to turning up the volume on the PMP to hear the audio better. Headphones that surround the ear keep the background noise to a minimum, allowing you to leave the volume at or below 60 percent. Even better, invest in noise-canceling headphones.
  • If you must use earbuds, make them in-ear earbuds. With these earbuds, the earpiece sits inside the ear canal, rather than just outside it. The sleeve around the speaker blocks out background noise and keeps your audio from escaping the ear canal.
  • Use the sound limiter built into the PMP. Many devices allow you to limit how loud the volume goes, or the device has a built-in alert telling you you’re risking hearing damage by pushing the volume higher.
  • For kids, get volume-limiting headphones. Though there are many child-friendly options for headphones that will keep the volume from going over 85, it’s best to read up on whichever pair you choose to buy. Research by Wirecutter found that, of more than 30 brands tested, almost half were not effective at keeping the volume below 85 dB.

Hitting the Water? Don’t Forget Your Swimmers’ Earplugs for Ear Protection!

You’ve packed the swimsuits, floats, safety vests, caps, goggles, kids, and snacks for a summer afternoon at the lake or neighborhood pool, but what about the earplugs?

These small accessories can make a big difference in keeping the good times going during family fun in the water. Before you go, here are four things to know about swimmers’ earplugs:

1. They Help Protect Against Ear Infection

Ears and moisture don’t always mix. Otitis externa, an outer-ear infection also known as ìswimmer’s ear,î is typically caused by bacterial or fungal growth when the skin in the ear canal potentially becomes irritated from activities such as swimming. Though treatable, the condition can lead to temporary hearing loss and other problems, so prevention matters. Using quality, properly inserted earplugs helps keep the water ó and the threat of infection ó out of your ears.

2. They Can Be Off the Shelf or Customized

It’s always nice to have options, and swimmers’ earplugs are no exception. They come in disposable, reusable, and custom-fit varieties and can be made from silicone or putty. Off-the-shelf earplugs are often readily available at local drugstores, but your local audiologist can create a better-fitting, washable set tailored to your unique ears. Take heed: Swimmers’ earplugs are not the same as hearing-protection earplugs and should be used only for water protection.

3. They’re Not Just for Swimmers

Earplugs can be your best friend when it comes to protecting your ears in water, but did you know they’re not just for swimming? That’s right! Folks who work outside in the heat all day, for example, can also use earplugs to keep the sweat away, so it’s good to have a couple extra pairs at home, the job site, or other convenient storage spots. Remember: If your ears have a chance of getting wet, protective earplugs are one of your best bets.

4. They’re a Solution for Adults and Children

You might think swimmers’ earplugs are just for grown-ups. Not so fast! Water in the ears can also pose a problem for kids, who are typically more vulnerable to ear infections than adults. Inserting earplugs before a swimming session or at bath time, keeping your child’s ear canals clean, and drying the ears after any amount of time in the water or other moist environment can help curb the risk of infection. And remember: Always use clean hands when inserting earplugs into your or your child’s ears.


Are you concerned about protecting your or your loved ones’ ears? Contact our caring team to schedule a complimentary hearing-protection consultation today. We’re happy to help with solutions for the whole family!

How Noise Pollution Affects Your Health & How to Protect Yourself

Noise is just noise, right? You learn to tune it out and, unless it’s really loud, you don’t worry about it. You definitely wouldn’t worry about its effects on your heart — would you?

As far back as 1972, awareness of the adverse health effects of noise pollution was so strong that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed the Noise Control Act to establish “a national policy to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health and welfare.” This naturally leads to the question, “How bad can noise pollution really be?”

What Is Noise Pollution?

Noise pollution isn’t just rush-hour traffic, living near an airport, or working near a long-standing construction site. To truly understand noise pollution, let’s try a little experiment, either in real life or in your imagination:

Go to your favorite spot in nature. Keep your headphones packed away (or better yet, leave them at home). Now turn off your smartphone. Just be there, and note what you hear. Water? Bugs? Maybe your dog sniffing something “interesting”?

Odds are, the silence is almost overwhelming. You’re exposed daily to even more noise than you realize. Appliances, computers, traffic, the constant hum of the furnace or air conditioner — that’s just the environmental component. Use of headphones for video games and music as well as the din of socializing in public spaces contribute, too; so much so, in fact, that researchers consider them a separate category: social noise.

So what is noise pollution? It’s any sound that reduces your quality of life. That simple definition, however, has more packed into it than you might suspect.

How Does Noise Pollution Affect My Health?

Hearing loss

The most obvious effect is noise-induced hearing loss. Any noise above 85 decibels (dB; a measurement of sound intensity) can damage hearing. Everyday life is full of noise above 85 dB: a gas lawn mower (91 dB), hair dryer (94 dB), headphones turned too loud (100 dB), and a plane takeoff (120 dB) are just a few commonplace noise sources that can damage your hearing. At 85 dB, hearing damage occurs after about 8 hours of exposure, but at 91 dB — only a 6-dB increase — damage occurs after about 2 hours.

Reduced brainpower

It is well established that environmental noise pollution reduces learning outcomes and cognitive performance in children. The more consistently a classroom is exposed to noise from aircraft, road traffic, or trains, the poorer the children’s reading ability, memory, and standardized-testing performance compared to children not exposed to noise at school.

Cardiovascular problems

Noise pollution has long been linked to cardiovascular disease, and a recent article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology offers a suggestion as to why: Noise triggers a stress reaction that includes the fight-or-flight response of the nervous system and an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol. Over time, this repeated flooding of the system with stress hormones can damage the cardiovascular system.

Sleep problems

Other than hearing damage, it’s been established that sleep disturbance is the most harmful effect of environmental noise pollution. Short-term effects of poor sleep are mood changes, daytime sleepiness, and decreased cognitive abilities. One significant long-term effect of poor sleep is cardiovascular disease.

Psychological stress
A study in the Journal of Sound and Vibration found that those in homes exposed to road traffic on one side — even at a maximum of 68 dB, about the noise level of average TV audio — experienced annoyance and a reduction in daytime relaxation and psychological well-being. But those ill effects were reduced significantly if residents moved to the side of the home not exposed to the road-traffic noise.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Hearing protection

Whether you choose inexpensive, all-purpose, drugstore disposables or custom-molded earplugs, you can find hearing protection that fits your budget or needs. Usually there is a noise-reduction ratio (NRR) number associated; the higher the number, the better the softening of sound should be. Here are some common situations for which you can find over-the-counter or custom hearing protection:

  • Sleeping
  • Shooting (range or hunting)
  • Listening to live music
  • Playing music
  • Flying
  • Kids’ safety (use earmuffs, as they are safer and easier for kids to use)

Another form of hearing protection? Simply turn down the TV or music, whether you’re listening with headphones or speakers. A general rule is to listen to your music device for no more than 60 minutes at 60 percent volume.

Personal technology solutions

Masking. Depending on the source of the noise, this could be ideal. Masking is when one sound is used to draw focus away from other, less pleasant sounds. White noise, classical music, and nature sounds — all at low volume — are just some examples of masking using headphones or speakers. Plus, there are plenty of white noise and nature-sound apps available for your smartphone.

Noise-canceling headphones. Many apps that are labeled as noise-canceling apps are actually masking apps. True noise canceling can only be achieved with a combination of a microphone, circuitry, and a speaker, so true noise canceling is only found in noise-canceling headphones. They identify problematic noise and create a sound that neutralizes the incoming, problematic sound. In essence, it truly cancels sounds. In addition, the headphones are made with more sound-absorbent materials than traditional headphones.

How Can I Reduce the Noise Pollution Around Me?

Sound waves can be absorbed — use it to your advantage! Here are just a few ideas to help you look at your home a little differently. How else could you set up your living space to soundproof it?

Floors. Do you have hard floors? Consider installing carpet — the shaggier the better. For a simpler, more affordable solution, get area rugs to put in rooms that generate a lot of noise — think TV, laundry, and exercise rooms.

Furniture. Is your furniture out in the middle of the room? Push it up against the walls to absorb the sound waves that make it through the wall. The more overstuffed your furniture, the more sound is absorbed. Add accent pillows, drape throws or blankets — anything tasteful that absorbs sound.

Bookcases. Put bookcases against walls that get a lot of noise exposure. The bookcase absorbs sound like a second wall, and the paper from the books absorbs plenty as well.

Curtains. Even thin curtains will absorb sound. Already have curtains on all the windows? Swap them out for heavier ones to add extra absorption on sides of the house that get more outside noise.

Appliances. If possible, close the door when running loads of laundry. Start the dishwasher when you won’t be in the kitchen for the rest of the evening. If larger appliances are in unfinished areas — think laundry in an unfinished basement — hang old blankets, towels, or clothes on the walls to act as sound absorbers.

Contact us today to schedule a hearing-protection consultation!

Working in Your Lawn this Spring? Remember to Protect Your Hearing!

April Is National Lawn and Garden Month

Celebrate by Protecting Your Hearing

Spring has sprung, and so has the annual spring cornucopia of sounds: birds singing, children laughing, neighbors chatting , and lawn equipment.

Maintaining your burgeoning plant life is a noisy affair. Once you’ve used the mower, leaf blower, chain saw, and string trimmer, your ears have put up with quite a racket.

With noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affecting one in four U.S. adults ages 20 to 69, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it might be worth exploring the question, ìBut how dangerous is all that noise, really?î
 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing happens when the hair cells in your inner ear convert sound signals to electrical signals, and these electrical signals get sent to your brain to be interpreted as sounds. Every hair cell that gets damaged, therefore, means a reduction in your ability to hear. NIHL, then, is hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise, which damages your hair cells.
 

Your Loud Lawn

You might be thinking, ìYeah, but how loud can all my lawn gear actually be?î Well, your hedge trimmer alone can damage your hearing after 7 or 8 minutes of exposure.

The key to navigating your loud lawn is decibels, the basic unit of sound intensity. Sounds below 85 decibels (dB) are safe for unprotected human ears. At 85 dB and above, you’re in the action zone: Take steps to protect your ears or risk hearing damage.

Let’s take a look at some common yard-care machines and the decibel outputs they inflict on your unprotected ears. For comparison, a typical indoor conversation is about 60 dB.

  • Push or riding lawn mower. At 90 dB, hearing damage can occur in 2 Ω hours.
  • Edger/string trimmer. At 96 dB, hearing damage can occur in 38 minutes.
  • Leaf blower. At 99 dB, hearing damage can occur in 19 minutes.
  • Pressure washer. At 100 dB , just one more decibel than a leaf blower , hearing damage can occur in 15 minutes rather than 19 minutes.
  • Hedge trimmer. At 103 dB, hearing damage can occur in 7 Ω minutes.
  • Chain saw. At a whopping 110 dB, hearing damage starts at 1 Ω minutes.

Hearing Protection

With output like that, it’s no wonder NIHL is so common. But that prevalence hides an important fact: NIHL can be easily and inexpensively prevented with hearing protection.

Hearing protection is a proven, effective way to minimize the risk of hearing damage, and it doesn’t have to mean a muffled, plugged experience for the wearer. You can get earplugs for as little as a few dollars for 20 pairs at a pharmacy, but there are also over-the-counter options that allow conversation to come through but block loud noises. You can even buy custom-fit earplugs that match the contours of your ears for maximum comfort.

Lawn care doesn’t have to hurt your hearing , contact us to set up a hearing protection consultation!

During Football Season, Local Audiologist Makes Noise About Hearing Protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2017

During Football Season, Local Audiologist Makes Noise About Hearing Protection

Bartlesville, OK — This October is the American Academy of Audiology’s National Audiology Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about audiology and the importance of hearing protection. Making this topic relevant and timely to the community, Advanced Hearing Care reminds football fans (and arena-sports fans alike) that the best offense against hearing loss is a good defense.

“Your hearing is a key element to fully enjoying your time at the game. Ironically, the things we love — from cheering and jeering to the halftime performance — are all things that could hurt our hearing. The better you protect your hearing, the longer you’ll be able to experience the things you love,” says Stephanie Moore, Audiologist, of Advanced Hearing Care

Loud stadiums have become a source of pride for fans and teams across the country, but with stadium noise exceeding safe decibel (sound pressure) levels, it’s also a source of hearing loss. Cheering fans can push decibel (dB) levels well into the hundreds. At these levels, it only takes 1 to 15 minutes for the sound to damage your ears.

“Cheering while the away team is in a huddle gives football fans the opportunity to get in on the action, but football isn’t the only sport that puts fans at risk. From vuvuzelas to referee whistles and fireworks, loud noise at sporting events is something all spectators should be aware of,” says Dr. Moore. “The more awareness we raise about noise-induced hearing loss [NIHL], the more people we can help.”

NIHL is damage done to the ears by exposure to loud noise; the amount of damage is dependent upon the decibel level and the length of time you’re exposed. Repeated exposure to sound levels above 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss. Rather than not being able to hear at all, high-frequency sounds are usually the first to go, meaning you may be unable to hear s, f, sh, ch, h, or soft c sounds.

National Audiology Awareness Month encourages regular hearing checkups combined with hearing protection to preserve hearing health. The focus includes helping those living with untreated hearing loss by offering educational pieces around technological advances in hearing aids.

Press Contact:
Stephanie Moore, AuD
Advanced Hearing Care
918-333-9992
info@drstephaniemoore.com, www.drstephaniemoore.com
About Advanced Hearing Care- Advanced Hearing Care is a full-service audiology practice proud to be bringing better hearing to the people of Bartlesville for 11 years. From Bartlesville our AudigyCertified™ hearing care practice has helped thousands of patients with their hearing, tinnitus, and balance disorders — and offers state-of-the-art diagnostic testing and expert fitting of hearing technology.

Noisy Toys 2012

From the American Tinnitus Association — Hold that thought before you buy that noisy toy for your kids or grandkids this year.  The Sight and Hearing Association has released its list of the noisiest toys of 2012, and chances are that noise-maker you’re looking at could cause hearing loss. Of 20 toys tested this year,  12  sounded  off  above  100  decibels  (dB),  which  can  damage  hearing  in  less  than  15 minutes.

The noisiest toys of 2012 can cause permanent hearing loss within 15 minutes of exposure.

Walking through the toy aisle at various stores, SHA selects toys that appear to be too loud for consumers. Once brought back to their office, a hand-held sound level meter is used to measure the sound produced from the speaker and 10 inches from the speaker of the toy. This, year, Mattel’s Talking Figure Buzz Lightyear was the leader among a dozen toys that literally went from infinity and beyond when it came to producing sound, blasting out at 111 dB. According to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, exposure to decibel levels at a close distance would cause hearing damage almost immediately. Exposure to noise levels above 85 dB for no more than eight hours is the federal threshold for hearing protection. SHA reminds consumers that hearing loss is cumulative and it typically does not happen from one event; it gradually happens over time and that is why it is important to protect hearing at a young age.

Toys are required to meet the acoustic standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials, which states that the sound-pressure level produced by toys shall not exceed 85 dB at 50 cm from the surface of the toy. “The problem with this standard is 50 cm is longer than the average arm length of an adult. We test toys based on how a child would play with them, not how an adult would play with them. If you watch a child playing with a noise-producing toy, you will see them hold it close to their ears or within their arms length, which is closer to 10 inches (25 cm)”, explains Kathy Webb, executive director of SHA.

Parents can do a few things to make it a little quieter this holiday season. SHA recommends testing the toy before you buy it. Webb says, “push buttons and rattle toys as you walk through the toy aisle and if a toy is too loud for you, it will be too loud for your child. Look for toys that have volume controls and if you must buy a noisy toy, or your child receives a noisy toy from a well-meaning family member, place clear packing tape over the speaker, it will reduce the sound level enough to make the toy ear-safe.” The University of Minnesota/Department of Otolaryngology confirmed in a study that was released in August 2012, that covering noise- producing toys with tape or glue will significantly reduce the noise level of a toy, making it safer for children.

Founded in 1939, Minnesota-based Sight & Hearing Association is dedicated to enabling lifetime learning by identifying preventable loss of vision and hearing. If consumers have a noisy toy to report, they can contact SHA at  reportatoy@sightandhearing.org.

Researchers Identify Genetic Mutation Responsible for Age-Related Hearing Loss

From HealthyHearing.com

In a nine-year study that was a collaboration between University of South Florida’s Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers were able to identify the first genetic biomarker for presbycusis. The genetic mutation carried by those who ultimately suffer from age-related hearing loss is linked to speech processing abilities in older people.

In collaboration with the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, the researchers discovered a gene that produces a key protein in the inner ear — the cochlea — called glutamate receptor metabotropic 7 (GRM7). The GRM7 protein is intimately involved in converting sound into the code of the nervous system, in the cochlea, which is then sent to the parts of the brain used for hearing and speech processing.

Now having identified the gene, the researchers said people can be tested and takes steps earlier in life — such as avoiding loud noises, wearing ear protection and avoiding certain medicines known to damage hearing — to protect their hearing.

“This gene is the first genetic biomarker for human age related hearing loss, meaning if you had certain configurations of this gene you would know that you are probably going to lose your hearing faster than someone who might have another configuration,” said Robert Frisina Jr.

The Frisinas launched their study of genetics’ role in hearing loss nine years ago in hopes of identifying the cause of one of the most common forms of permanent hearing loss. Clinically, age-related hearing loss has been defined as a progressive loss of sensitivity to sound, starting at the high frequencies, inability to understand speech, the lengthening of the minimum discernible temporal gap in sounds, and a decrease in the ability to filter out background noise. Researchers now know the causes of presbycusis are likely a combination of multiple environmental and genetic factors.

Age-related hearing loss is a very prevalent problem in our society. It costs billions of dollars every year to manage and deal with it. It’s right up there with heart disease and arthritis as far as being one of the top three chronic medical conditions of the aged,” said Robert Frisina Jr.

DNA analyses were conducted and completed at the University of Rochester Medical School and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The study involved 687 people who underwent three hours of extensive examination of their hearing capabilities, including genetic analyses and testing of speech processing.

The Noisiest Toys of 2011

Christmas time is here again, and this is arguably the busiest season for toy makers.  As most parents and grandparents know, some of the hottest toys of the season are also the ones that make the most noise.  And every year, with the commencement of the Christmas shopping season, the Sight and Hearing Association releases a list of the most dangerously loud toys available.

The Loudest Toys of the Year

The Noisiest Toys of 2011

The toy that gets this year’s dubious honor as the loudest is the Disney Cars 2 Shake ‘n Go! Racer, Finn Missile made by Fisher-Price, Inc.  This toy puts out 124 decibels of sound when held close to the ear and 99.5 decibels of sound when held 10 inches away from the ear.  Other toys on the list are the Sesame Street Let’s Rock Elmo Guitar made by Hasbro, the Tonka Toughest Minis Fire and Police vehicles by Funrise Toy Corp., and the Dora Tunes Microphone by Fisher-Price, Inc.  The entire list is now available for download.

Giving Perspective to the Numbers

How loud are everyday sounds? (Click for full-size image.)

To most people, 124 decibels is just a number.  But the Finn Missile Racer, when held close to the ear, is as loud as most rock-and-roll concerts.  When held 10 inches away from the ear, the same toy is still as loud as a motorcycle.  Both levels of sound are dangerous to human hearing.  Prolonged exposure to noise levels of 85 decibels and higher can result in permanent hearing loss.  At 120 decibels, damage can happen after less than 10 seconds of exposure.  At 100 decibels, it only takes 15 minutes of exposure for damage to occur.

Why the Current Standard Doesn’t Work

As of 2009, toy manufacturers were required to follow sound level guidelines for all toys. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) (ASTM F963-08) states the sound-pressure level produced by all toys except close-to-the-ear toys shall not exceed 85 decibels when held 50 centimeters (roughly 18 inches) from the surface of the toy.

Decibel-limiting headphones are an ideal hearing prevention measure for children and teenagers.

However, most kids play with their toys by holding them or sitting right next to them, not from a distance of 18 inches.  For the past 14 years, the Sight and Hearing Association has tested toys at distances simulating how a child might hold the toy – directly near the ear (0 inches) and at arm’s length (10 inches). A sound-proof acoustic chamber is used to ensure accurate measurements.

How to Protect Your Child’s Hearing

The most important thing a parent or grandparent can do to protect a child’s hearing is to listen to the toy themselves before they buy it.  If it sounds too loud in the store and through the packaging, it is too loud for a child.  You can put masking tape or packing tape over the speaker of loud toys to restrict their sound output.  Limiting the time a child can play with a loud toy is also advisable.  For older children, find sound-limiting ear buds or headphones to use with portable music players or hand-held game consoles.  Some of these devices have parental controls that allow you to control the maximum loudness that they will generate.

Good hearing is a precious and integral part of how children and people of all ages interact with the world around us. Hearing protection a relatively simple matter, especially when compared to the process of treating hearing loss. When it comes to your hearing, a good adage to live by is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Protect Your Good Hearing With Custom HPDs

The world is an increasingly noisy place, which means that it’s getting more and more dangerous for healthy hearing. Any noise that’s louder than 85 decibels is dangerous to a person’s hearing with prolonged exposure. The louder the noise, the more dangerous it is, the less exposure time is necessary for permanent damage to occur. The common rock concert usually sees sound levels of 120 decibels, a level that causes damage after only about 7.5 minutes of exposure. A shotgun is loud enough that even one shot can cause instantaneous permanent damage.

So what’s a person to do to preserve their hearing in this loud world? The best way to protect your hearing is to use any of a number of different Hearing Protection Devices. These can be as simple as foam earplugs or as sophisticated as a pair of electronic ear pieces.

Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR)

When looking at the different options for any hearing protection device, it’s important to look for that device’s Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR. The higher the number of the NRR, the more attenuation or noise reduction the device can offer. Earmuffs with an NRR of 20dB are better for use with your lawn mower than a pair of foam earplugs with an NRR of 18dB. If you were to use the foam earplugs underneath the earmuffs, the total NRR would add up to about 28dB.

Solid Custom Earplugs

Solid Custom Earplugs

The best protection available in custom earplugs is a solid plug, usually made of silicone or vinyl. These can attenuate up to 40dB, depending on the materials used to make them, and most offer an average NRR of 29dB. These kinds of plugs are ideal for extremely noisy situations, like shooting ranges, factories with heavy machinery, or construction sites.

Electronic Earplugs

Some custom earplugs can almost be classified as hearing aids. They have most of the electronic components found in a hearing aid, and use one of the most important hearing aid features, compression, to reduce random and sudden bursts of very loud noise. Because they use electronic compression, they can be used in situations where the random and sudden noises are a more sustained burst. They do fill the ear, but since they contain the microphone and amplifier components found in hearing aids, they do allow the wearer to hear what’s going on around them with clarity.

Filtered Earplugs

Filtered Earplugs

This type of hearing protection employs a filter to allow the wearer to hear sounds accurately but at a reduced level. On some types of devices, such as Musician’s Filters, several different levels of noise reduction are available by using interchangeable filters. The average NRR of these devices ranges from 9dB to 25dB. These types of earplugs are excellent for protecting your hearing while allowing you to hear naturally at a reduced volume.

Sonic Valve Earplugs

Other types of devices employ a Sonic Valve, rather than electronic compression, to clamp down on sudden and random bursts of very loud noises. Commonly called Hunter’s Plugs, these devices only have an NRR of 6dB with the valve open. The valve closes with the impact of a gun shot pressure wave and gives an average attenuation of about 17dB. The low open NRR allows the hunter to hear important environmental sounds.

Sonic Valve Earplugs

Other Custom Products

There is wide variety of custom earplugs available for other specific uses. Some of these are swimmer’s molds to keep ears dry while in the pool, sleep molds to block out a partner’s snoring, and motor sports molds to manage wind noise levels. Custom recreational earphones or even custom in-ear monitors for professional musicians are also available. These kinds of devices are great for delivering high fidelity sound while managing that sound level to reduce the risk of damage to the wearer’s hearing.

As the world gets louder, it becomes more dangerous to your good hearing. Simple steps can help ensure that you have good hearing for a lifetime. For more information on the various hearing protection devices available, call Advanced Hearing Care today.