Public health officials believe that nearly 26 million individuals across the United States are impacted by noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Noise-induced hearing loss is brought on by contact with dangerous sound levels of 85 decibels (dB) or more, and may be either temporary or permanent. The variety noises that can bring about noise-induced hearing loss cover anything from common city traffic at approximately 85 dB to motorcycles, fireworks and guns which may exceed 120 dB. Luckily, there are many types of hearing protection products sold at your local hardware or sports store to accommodate the different noise levels in a variety of situations.
The rating system for hearing protection. In the US, all devices are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for measuring the level of protection they give the wearer. The rating range from 0 to 33 decibels with the larger rating providing greater ear protection.
Earplugs or Earmuffs
Electronic earplugs provide variable protection, meaning that after these small devices are placed into the ear, they can adapt the level of protection they provide according to conditions. For unexpected noises, such as gunfire or a crash, the earplugs self-adjust. Some types of electronic earplugs can allow lower-decibel sounds such as speech to pass while still blocking dangerous loud noises. These may be especially useful in situations where earmuffs are too bulky or in conditions where the user needs protection against recurrent loud noises but still needs to hear other sounds in the environment.
Electronic earmuffs cover the entire outer ear with a soft insulating material and, while most versions look the same to non-electronic earmuffs, they are actually very distinctive. Some models are precisely constructed to protect police, soldiers or hunters against the noise of gunfire. Other earmuffs include a built-in 2-way radio system that allows wearers to talk with one another in loud working environments. There are even certain earmuffs that let you listen to the radio when you are in a noisy spot, which is nice when mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.