Public health officials believe that nearly 26 million people throughout the United States are affected by noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Noise-induced hearing loss is brought on by contact with dangerous noise levels of 85 decibels (dB) or more, and may be either temporary or permanent. The kinds of noises that can cause NIHL cover anything from everyday city traffic at about 85 dB to guns, firecrackers and motorcycles which may top 120 decibels. Fortunately that your local sporting goods and hardware shops most likely have a variety of hearing protection products available which will help safeguard your hearing in a wide variety of scenarios.
The rating system for hearing protection
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the United States standard rating system for the level of protection provided by a particular device. The rating range from 0 to 33 decibels with the larger rating providing greater ear protection.
Comparing Earplugs and Earmuffs
Electronic earplugs provide variable protection, which means that once these small units are placed into the ear, they’re able to adapt the level of protection they provide according to conditions. In case of sudden noises, such as gunfire, the earplugs self-adjust. Different earplugs can even improve your hearing by making normal sounds clearer while still keeping out the dangerous sounds. These are especially useful for hunting and at industrial or construction sites where loud noises are frequent, but you still need to be able to hear instructions.
Electronic earmuffs may look like regular earmuffs, with soft insulating material that covers the full outer ear, but they are really quite different. Some earmuffs are manufactured specifically for those who deal with firearms on a routine basis, such as police, soldiers or hunters. Other earmuffs offer walky-talky style communication for people working in dangerously loud environments. You can even find some that let you listen to the radio when you are in a noisy spot, which is great if you’re mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.