Hearing loss is increasing among young people at an alarming rate. Most suspect that the increase has to do with increased exposure to leisure or recreational sound. These forms of sound exposure do not only include activities such as attending loud sporting events in arenas or spending time dancing in nightclubs.
Among the most dangerous leisure sound is a casual, everyday activity of using earbuds or headphones. These devices project powerfully loud sound directly into the ear canal. Their dangerous nature is masked by the fact that they cannot be heard by others. Nonetheless, long periods of exposure to music or other audio at harmfully loud volumes can cause permanent damage. The risks of hearing loss from noise exposure in the workplace has been a worry for much longer.
Although the Occupational Safety and Hearing Administration (OSHA) sets strict guidelines for the duration and volume of noise exposure in the workplace, many places of business do not abide by these standards, including restaurants, beauty salons, and leisure locales. Although a rare attendance at a very loud sporting event might be detrimental to the attendee, the employee of the arena who attends these events many nights each week can incur lasting damage at a much faster rate.
For these reasons, hearing protection is a crucial consideration not only for those who are exposed to noise in the workplace but also for those unsuspecting patrons of noisy recreational establishments. Hearing protection can effectively reduce the decibel level encountering the ear, taking the sound from a dangerous level to a safe one. Yet, you might be puzzled when it comes to the variety of hearing protection available.
Some concert halls, music venues, and nightclubs offer disposable hearing protection for sale or for free to their patrons, but are these devices as effective as other forms of hearing protection? The following are some basics about heart protection to point you in the right direction for your hearing needs.
Types of Hearing Protection
Although the small disposable earplugs you can buy over the counter are the most common form of hearing protection, many other types are available. If properly inserted, these foam earplugs can offer up to 10 decibels of protection, often taking a workplace or leisure activity from danger to safety. Take, for instance, the hairdryer used at a beauty salon or a vacuum cleaner used by a hotel maid. These appliances might seem harmless, and a single use once a day can indeed have no permanent effect.
However, when they are used for extended periods of time or throughout a full day of work, earplugs can be a helpful way to reduce the danger of hearing loss. Take care to properly insert foam earplugs. They should be twisted into a tiny pea-sized shape, inserted into the ear canal, and allowed to expand to fill the space of the outer ear. If they stick out of the ear canal too far, they might not be fully effective.
The second major type of hearing protection is an over-the-ear noise cancelling muff. These devices are required in workplaces with higher levels of noise exposure, such as industrial facilities or among airplane repair workers. Some very loud workplaces require the use of earplugs and earmuffs, creating an additional layer of protection. However, it is possible to get too much hearing protection for some jobs. By muting all the sound in the area, not only are workers unable to converse with coworkers, but they can become dangerously unaware of their surroundings. Take care to use the appropriate level of hearing protection without going too far.
The third major type of hearing protection is a custom-fitted hearing protection unit. These devices are crafted by a hearing health professional after taking a mold of the shape of the outer ear and the entrance to the ear canal. With an imprint of that shape, hearing protection can be created to precisely fit into that narrow space, leaving no room for unwanted sound to enter. Although these customized units can be more costly, they also come equipped with the technology to block harmful sound while allowing other sounds to get through, including the sound of human speech. Consult with your hearing health provider to learn more about these promising options.