Hearing loss from prolonged exposure to hazardous noise can be prevented and/or reduced through education, the use of hearing protection, and reduced exposure time. The standards used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to determine ‘how much’ exposure at a work place is allowable, does not take into consideration all other sources of hazardous noise an individual may receive throughout his or her lifetime. Hearing loss from exposure to hazardous noise is cumulative, that is, it builds up over time and one may not even notice the problem for years. But the loss incurred from repeated exposure is permanent and much of it can be prevented or reduced if you know how. Just like the use of sunscreen helps reduce the impact of the sun’s harmful rays on our skin and preserves good skin health, knowing what can be done to reduce the harmful effects of everyday hazardous noise exposure is important for long-term hearing health.
The use of hearing protection around all hazardous noise sources is not an option. The use of hearing protection is extremely important for anyone who is regularly in a high-noise environment, including target shooters, motorcyclists, airline pilots, musicians, school band members and directors, construction workers, lawn maintenance crews, plumbers, factory workers, race car drivers and their audience, military service members, mechanics, wood-shop crafters, and many others. Although workplace hazardous noise is regulated through the OSHA, recreational noise exposure is not regulated but all noise sources add to noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss from hazardous noise occurs whether on the job or from hobbies and recreational activities – the outcome is the same as the ear doesn’t know the difference. All exposures require the use of hearing protection, even if there will be short-term exposure.
There are many sources where you can purchase hearing protection to include local retail stores like sporting goods stores and there are many online sources. You will find earplugs and headsets and earmuffs of all kinds. All of these products should come with directions for use and a rating of how much they reduce the loudness of the noise. It is important that the type of protection you use is comfortable in the ear for short and long periods of time and has the highest possible noise reduction rating (NRR). These types of hearing protection devices are quite good and can provide you with effective protection. Many are inexpensive but do a good job in protecting your hearing. We can discuss the various options and provide you our counsel to help you determine which type is best for you.
Store-bought, non-customized hearing protection will be appropriate for many individuals, but at times, customized or custom-fit devices, will be necessary. Custom-made earplugs may be more comfortable for long-term use and some hearing protection uses eletronic noise reduction circuits to further reduce your exposure. Custom products may provide more security of the device in the ear when non-customized devices cannot.