26 million Americans — consisting of men, women and kids — have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Noise-induced hearing loss is brought on by exposure to unsafe sound levels of 85 decibels (dB) and up, and may be permanent or temporary. To put that in context, frequent exposure to heavy traffic in the city may reach this level, while motorcycles, fireworks and firearms all have decibel levels in excess of 120. Thankfully that your neighborhood sporting goods and hardware stores most likely have a number of hearing protection devices on hand that can help safeguard your hearing in a wide variety of circumstances.
A noise reduction rating system for hearing protection. The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the US standard rating system for the level of protection offered from a particular device.The rating range from 0 to 33 dB with the larger rating having greater hearing protection.
Earplugs vs. Earmuffs
Electronic earplugs are inserted inside the ear and provide variable protection, meaning the level of protection rises and falls depending upon outside noises. For unexpected noises, such as gunshots or a crash, the earplugs self-adjust. Some kinds of electronic earplugs can allow lower-decibel sounds such as speech to pass while at the same time blocking dangerous noises. Electronic earplugs are particularly valuable in conditions where earmuffs could be too cumbersome and get in the way.
Electronic earmuffs may look like regular earmuffs, with plush padding that covers the ears, but they are actually rather different. Some are manufactured specifically for people who deal with gunshots on a routine basis, such as police, soldiers or hunters. Other earmuffs include 2-way communication for individuals on dangerous and loud worksites. You can even find some that let you listen to the radio when you’re in a noisy place, which is awesome if you’re blowing leaves or mowing the lawn.