Headphones, Earplugs and Custom Hearing Protection
Do you love working with power tools or is playing the electric guitar more your style? Do you insert earbuds and go for a run or workout at the gym? These are all activities that put you at risk for noise induced hearing loss. Headphones, earplugs and custom earmolds may protect your hearing and still let you enjoy your hobbies.
Noise-induced hearing loss
This type of hearing loss occurs when exposure to loud noise damages the hair cells in your ears. These cells are part of your cochlea. They aren’t really hairs, but look like hairs. They take incoming sound and convert it to the electrical impulses your auditory nerve sends to your brain. Damage to these cells is not reversible. When they are damaged, they are damaged. Much of the damage hair cells receive is due to exposure to loud noise. The exposure over a long period of time just makes the amount of hearing loss worse. Chainsaws, rock concerts and even hairdryers produce sounds at damaging levels. That’s why it is important to protect your ears.
When it comes to protecting your hearing, headphones do more than just protect you from noise that surrounds you. If you are a devoted music lover, headphones will allow you to hear a richer sound at a lower level than earbuds. Earbuds deliver the sound directly to your ear, but they do not block out the ambient noise. As a result, you turn the volume up. An iPod can go up to 103 decibels, far above what is safe. Headphones block out the surrounding noise. You can hear your music better and at a lower volume. Some headphones actually listen for noise in the environment and then cancel it out by preprocessing the signal.
In the workplace, headphones can fit over the ear or behind the neck. There are even models that attach to your hard hat. Headphones will not irritate your ear canals.
Earplugs for protection
Earplugs come in a wide variety of styles. There are reusable, disposable, banded and electronic earplugs on the market.
On the high end, electronic earplugs allow you to customize your protection based on your surroundings. Different modes offer different levels of protection so you can still hear conversation to keep you safe while still protecting your hearing. You can turn them on and off with ease.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are disposable bullet shaped plugs made of foam. These are made for single use and are a one size fits all item.
In between, you will find reusable foam plugs on cords for easy retrieval when they are removed. Vinyl half-moon shaped plugs block out harmful noise while remaining comfortable enough to wear for an entire shift.
Custom noise protection
If you are a professional musician or an avid shooter, talk to the audiologist about custom noise protection devices. These digital hearing protectors are made from a custom earmold, just like a hearing aid. They can be plain or fitted with electronics to help you hear the sounds you must hear while blocking out noise at harmful decibel levels.