Types of Hearing Protection
Many of the people with permanent hearing loss could have avoided the problem altogether by wearing proper hearing protection. Exposure to loud noise is the overwhelming cause of preventable hearing loss. Whether the loud noise happens at work or at home, it’s crucial to protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss in the future.
Many work environments come with noise. Factory workers, airline baggage handlers, police officers: These are just a few of the roles where constant loud noise is a danger to employees’ hearing. Employers are required to provide workers with two types of hearing protectors if they are exposed to noise in the work environment.
Finding the right hearing protection is an individual choice and depends on noise level, personal comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protector for both the worker and his environment. The most critical thing to look for when trying to prevent hearing loss is that the hearing protector actually cuts down the noise to an innocuous level. Off-the-shelf hearing protection works for many people, but some companies make custom devices to accommodate special needs.
Here are the three main types of devices that prevent hearing loss:
Earplugs block the ear canal and may be either pre-formed or moldable foam. Earplugs are sold as either disposable products or reusable plugs. Foam plugs, which are generally more comfortable, work best for long-term use to protect against high, constant noise levels. Firmer, pre-formed plugs are ideal for lower, intermittent noise.
Semi-insert earplugs consist of two earplugs held over the ends of the ear canal by a rigid headband. Because this type of earplug can be less comfortable, they’re used for more intermittent exposures.
Earmuffs consist of sound-attenuating material and soft ear cushions that fit around the ear and are held together by a headband with hard outer cups.
People generally find earmuffs the most convenient hearing protection when the noise comes and goes – it’s a lot easier to take off earmuffs than to remove and reinsert earplugs.
Of course, hearing protection works best to prevent hearing loss when it’s worn in all noisy situations. Even a few minutes in excessive noise without hearing protection can cut its benefit substantially. If your work or hobbies put you in noisy situations, it’s best to speak with a hearing health specialist to find the right device(s) to help you prevent permanent hearing loss.
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