According to the National Institutes of Health, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects 26 million individuals of every age in the United States. NIHL is brought on by exposure to unsafe sound levels of 85 decibels (dB) and up, and can be permanent or temporary. By way of comparison, repeated exposure to heavy traffic in the city may reach this decibel level, while motorcycles, fireworks and firearms all record decibel levels above 120. The good news is, there are many styles of hearing protection products available at your local sports or hardware store to match the different noise levels in a variety of situations.
How much protection is needed?
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the U.S. standard rating system for the level of protection provided by a particular device.The NRR system assigns ratings from 0 to 33 dB, with the higher numbers providing a higher level of protection.
Comparing Earplugs and Earmuffs
Electronic earmuffs are made to cup the ears with a cushiony insulation, and, although look similar to normal earmuffs, they are very different. Certain earmuffs are designed specifically for those who are exposed to gunshots on a regular basis, such as soldiers, hunters or police. Others include walky-talky style communication for individuals operating in hazardously loud environments. There are even some that allow you to enjoy the radio while you are in a noisy place, which is nice if you’re mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.
Electronic earplugs provide variable protection, which means that after these compact units are inserted into the ear, they’re able to adjust the level of protection they provide based on conditions. Earplugs are able to react very quickly to safeguard the user against unexpected loud noises like a crash from a cymbal or an exploding firework. Some varieties of electronic earplugs can allow lower-decibel sounds including speech to pass while still blocking dangerous noises. Electronic earplugs can be particularly useful in conditions where earmuffs could be too cumbersome and awkward.