Young Hearing

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Dr. Jared Young Au.D., FAAA, CCC-A

When are earplugs necessary?

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Articles referencing loudness levels, hearing loss and hearing protection discuss options regarding when you should use hearing protection or the effects of the noise.

Like any good message, here it is one more time.

When are earplugs necessary? Every time you are around sound that is 80 decibels (dB) or louder! Don’t know how to measure the sound?  If you feel it is too loud then wear hearing protection.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

To illustrate my point let me share an experience.  Recently I took my family to Disneyland.  Many of the rides at Disneyland use special effects to give you the desired thrill.  The ride Space Mountain has speakers directly behind your ears and uses light to intensify the ride.   The sound easily exceeds the 80 dB sound level.  According to government standards the duration plus the intensity is not enough to cause hearing loss or make them legally responsible for effects the ride may have on your hearing.  It does not mean it is comfortable for the rider.  My experiment with this ride was to ride it the first time as a normal participant, second time with foam ear plugs (30dB NRR ), third time with Surefire Sonic Defender earplugs (all sound is kept below 80 dB), and the fourth time with electronic earplugs.  [Additionally I used sunglasses for rides 2, 3, and 4]  The results were that the ride was much more enjoyable using hearing protection, and I could still hear my children with the Surefire and electronic hearing protection.

I realize that everyone does not walk around with earplugs in their pocket or purse, but maybe they should.  Foam earplugs are less than a dollar, and the Surefire earplugs can be purchased for around $12.  If you are around loud noise consistently then it would be a wise investment to look at electronic hearing protection.  These can range from $60 to $1000.  So please consider all the options.

 The article referenced in healthy hearing website titled: “Are Earplugs Necessary? Can I Use Something Else?”   Dated: Wednesday, November 14th 2012.  Is copied from Healthy Hearing with a thank you to them for sharing great information.

Earplugs are made of acoustically imperforate materials and of a specific size so that when properly worn they can provide appropriate hearing protection. That said, you must make sure that your earplugs are inserted correctly into the ear.

There are several types of hearing protection, from low-cost, low-tech foam or wax to high-tech, high-end noise cancellation earphones, the best one depends upon your protection needs. If you have a specific specialize need for hearing protection, consult with a hearing professional who will help you determine the best option for you.

An important consideration on any hearing protection is that you wear it properly.  When not worn properly, hearing protection is less effective, so take time to read the directions on how to use.

But, you have to go pro-active. You have to be the one to make the purchase and actually wear them! You’ve only got two ears. And noise-induced hearing loss is permanent.

Audiologists advise that other general-purpose materials should not be used as hearing protection! They offer little, if any, protection from noise.

I have also examined cotton balls, motorcycle helmets and simply putting your fingers in your ears. In short, cotton provides only 5 10 dB except at the highest frequencies; surprisingly motorcycle helmets, which are quite acoustically leaky, are not much better. However, fingers in your ears (though not terribly functional for general activities) nets you 25 30 dB; and could be sufficient for a brief noise emergency.

Published by Jared Young, Au.D.

As a Doctor of Audiology, my primary objective is to deliver unparalleled hearing health care and support to my valued patients. By using cutting-edge technology and a patient-centered approach, I strive to empower each person to overcome communication challenges and rediscover the joys of active and connected living.

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