How Do I Choose the Best Hearing Protection?

Last update on Mar, 31, 2022

Think about all the sounds you have encountered in your life. Concerts, lawn mowers, motorcycles, sirens, and a host of other sounds can affect and damage your ears in two ways, intensity of the sound and the length of the exposure to the sound. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million Americans are exposed to damaging noises annually while at least 10 million people suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. 

There is no way to reverse damage to your ears, however, there are ways to prevent further damage to your hearing. One of the best ways to prevent hearing loss is wearing the proper hearing protection, but how do you know if the protection you have is sufficient? Here are three ways to assess your next hearing protection purchase. 

Testing Your Hearing Protection

Consider Your Lifestyle

Think about what noises you encounter daily. Do you work in an environment where you wear other protection while you work? Are ear plugs best or would earmuffs be better? Is it usually hot or cold where you work? Do you work outside or inside? Another thing to think about is how often you need to hear when someone is speaking. Before buying hearing protection, really think about the environment you’re in every day and decide what protection is best for everyday use. 

Assess How Much Noise Reduction You Need

The point of hearing protection is to reduce the noise around you to not only protect your ears but to give you a better overall environment that isn’t as noisy. But just like reading with not enough light, having too much of the noise around you muted can make you less aware of your surrounding and could start to make you feel more isolated. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits on noise exposure in the workplace with the limits based on what’s called a worker’s 8-hour-time-weighted-average or TWA. In layman’s terms, during an 8-hour workday, noise should not exceed 85 dbA. The best way to test your hearing protection to see if you’re getting the proper noise reduction is by doing a “talk, tap, and listen” test. Talk while you have your protection on. When you speak, it should sound like your voice is coming from “within.” Tap the tragus tragus (the small cartilage nub which protrudes near the entry to the ear canal) of your ear. It should sound like a bass drum. Listen with both ears covered by your hearing protection. Is the sound clean? Is there any outside noise?

Consider Comfort

You won't want to wear your protective gear if it isn't comfortable. Make sure when you do buy or seek hearing protection, you test for comfort. There are a variety of styles available from foam to silicone. Try wearing them for an extended period of time, maybe for an hour, and see how you feel with them on. Comfort is probably the most important tip because the more comfortable the protection and fit, the more likely you are to wear them. 

You don’t have to do this alone. Talk with your audiologist about your concerns and let them help you find the best hearing protection! 

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