A Noisy World

On Sunday February 5th, millions of fans tuned in to watch the Falcons take on the Patriots in Superbowl 51.  Thousands more were lucky enough to be watching the action live in the stadium.  Yet perhaps their ears were not so lucky.  With decibel levels averaging in the mid-90s and peaks that can reach near 120-130 decibels, the cheering of these excited fans can exceed safe exposure times in less than a second.  As a result, many of these Superbowl attendees could be leaving the game with muffled hearing and that annoying ringing noise known as tinnitus, symptoms that indicate damage to the hearing organ and could result in permanent hearing loss.

This fate could easily have been avoided with a pair of earplugs or set of earmuffs.  Hearing protection devices (HPDs) come in a variety of types and sizes and may range in cost from a few dollars to several hundred.  Some HPDs are acceptable for many different kinds of noise while others are meant for a particular activity.  This article will focus on a few of the most popular types.

Earplugs for Musicians

For musicians, protecting hearing is a crucial investment.  There are several HPDs available that allow the musician to hear the music clearly while keeping external sound and music at a safe level.  Universal fit musician’s earplugs offer an inexpensive and reusable option perfect for concert goers.  For musicians that play regularly or are seeking the utmost in comfort and protection, custom earpieces with special filtered adapters are a great fit.  The filtered adapters come in a range of attenuation levels to offer just the right amount of noise reduction.  Due to the special response of these filters, speech and music are not distorted as they often are with foam earplugs or earmuffs.

*Photo credit Westone

Earplugs for Hunting and Shooting Enthusiasts

Those that enjoy hunting or shooting sports have a variety of options for customized hearing protection.   While simple foam earplugs or standard earmuffs will offer protection for this activity, many shooters find earmuffs to be bulky and earplugs to be a hassle.  Now there are products for shooters that offer many advantages over traditional style HPDs.

A custom earpiece with a special acoustic filter allows for minimal reduction of environmental sounds that allows the hunter to hear the game or a tracking dog but will attenuate a loud impulse sound, such as a gunshot.  This HPD has the advantage of having no circuitry to go awry and also tends to be one of the less expensive options available.

For hunters seeking a hearing protection product that offers the utmost advantage, digital hearing protection is a great choice.  Digital features may include wind noise reduction, amplification for increased awareness of the environment, noise reduction when the trigger of the gun is pulled and various shooting modes (one for intermittent shots while hunting and one for continuous shots as in clay shooting).  Digital hearing protection may be offered in a universal fit or custom made product but costs in the realm of several hundred dollars.

*Photo credit Westone

Earplugs for Factory and Industrial Settings

Hearing protection for those in industrial settings need to accommodate a variety of noise sources while allowing the ability to hear coworkers and equipment.  Several types of filtered earplugs allow this capability by allowing the worker to adjust the attenuation of the earplug depending on the setting by inserting or removing a special adapter on a cord.

*Photo credit Westone

Earplugs for Motorsports

Special custom plugs that fit securely and sit flush with the ear canal are available for those that need to wear a helmet or other headgear.  These plugs offer a hollow canal to promote wind noise reduction and improved comfort.

*Photo credit Westone

An HPD for every need

So whether you are attending a concert or going for a motorcycle adventure, there is a HPD for that!  If you want to learn more about hearing protection or need some guidance on the best option for your activity, call our office at 616-994-2770 to schedule a consultation with one of our audiologists.  For more information please visit the following websites:

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/index.htm www.osha.gov

www.westone.com

*Photo credit for pictures used in this article