Before choosing an earplug or earmuff, it is helpful to monitor the level of noise to know how much protection you need. Understand some of the basic terminology to choose the right hearing protection.
Noise Reduction Ratings
Compare your device’s Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR, which measures it’s attenuation, or its ability to block out noise. The lowest, humanly audible sound is at 0 decibels (dB), whereas a quiet barn, with babbling trout stream and gentle breeze is at 50 dB. Normal conversation is at 60 dB. Add an idling tractor and a barn cleaner, and it becomes 85 dB. Soon, you fail to notice if you’re exposed to it for eight or more hours per day. The full-throttle mower working your garden comes at 90 dB. This can make you lose your hearing once you’re exposed to it for four hours or more per day. One hour of exposure to tractor noises triggers hearing loss, so limit it.
Don’t underestimate the damage from a music player set above the halfway mark, for anything over than 15 minutes of this a day causes significant damage. Alarmingly, the danger of 120 dB in near thunderclaps and old chain saws is immediate. On the other hand, gunshots, dynamite blasts, and jet engines may actually cause ear pain with 140 dB. As noise gets louder, damage can occur sooner.
Ear Plugs and Ear Muffs
Disposable earplugs fit many different ear canals and usually have higher NRR compared to other protective devices. They are also initially less costly compared to others, and are disposable and maintenance free. These can be difficult to insert, however, and now wearing these properly hinders from the highest quality of protection that they can provide.
Earmuffs, on the other hand, are convenient. They are also more economical in the long run. The downside is that they require thorough cleaning. Choose the best earplugs or earmuffs that fit your personal preferences.
You will know if noise is damaging your ears if you hear ringing or other noises when there is none. You also have a problem if you can’t hear high pitched or soft sounds. The availability of custom earplugs leaves you no excuse from protecting your ears the best that you could. Remember that there is no cure for hearing loss, and the time to begin taking care of your ears is now.