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3 Tips for Choosing the Right Hearing Protection

Ear plugs can be just the right hearing protection.

Without hearing protection, you could experience permanent, yet preventable, hearing loss. Exposure to noise can have a detrimental impact on your hearing function, particularly if your ears are subjected to loud noises or a moderate level of noise over a particular length of time. 

Even relatively quiet noises can cause hearing damage if you’re exposed to them for long enough, so it’s important to use the right type of hearing protection and use it regularly. By doing so, you can retain your hearing function, prevent your hearing from being damaged and reduce the risks of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

Of course, you’ll need to know what type of hearing protection is right for you before you can protect your hearing. For help choosing the best hearing protection for your needs, take a look at our top three tips below.

1. Choose the right NRR or SNR rating

Hearing protection should always come with an NRR rating and you’ll need to determine which type of hearing protection is right for you based on this. NRR, or noise reduction rating, tells you how many decibels the hearing protection will ‘cancel out’. 

If you’re exposed to a noise level of 100 decibels, for example, and you wear earplugs with an NRR rating of 33 decibels, this brings the level of the noise you’re exposed to down 87 decibels. Similarly, if you’re exposed to a noise at 120 decibels, ear defenders with an NRR of 25 decibels will bring your exposure down to 95 decibels. 

Alternatively, an SNR, or Single Number Rating, can be used to determine how effective your hearing protection will be. Similarly, you deduct the rating number from the number of decibels you’re exposed to and this tells you what level of noise you will be exposed to while wearing the hearing protection. If you’re exposed to a noise level of 99 decibels, for example, and wear ear defenders with an SNR of 19, this effectively reduces the noise level to 80 decibels.

2. Ensure your hearing protection fits properly

Larger ear defenders or ear muffs typically sit over the ears and block out sound. However, if you choose ear muffs or defenders which are too large, they may routinely slip and allow external noise to damage your hearing. 

Similarly, in-ear hearing protection, such as earplugs, needs to fit tightly in the ear to ensure external noise doesn’t ‘leak’ into their ear and cause hearing damage. There are many custom in-ear products which are designed to provide hearing protection, but these should always be checked by a hearing specialist, such as an audiologist. 

While hearing protection can be a great way to prevent noise-induced hearing damage, its benefits will be limited if your chosen product doesn’t fit well. By ensuring you select earplugs, defenders or ear muffs which fit well, you can ensure that you’re getting an appropriate level of hearing protection. 

3. Visit your audiologist

Consulting an audiologist is the best way to ensure you get the right hearing protection for your needs. With extensive experience and in-depth training, audiologists have the knowledge and equipment to assess your hearing function and advise which type of hearing products will offer the best protection. 

In addition, a qualified audiologist will understand the risks posed by the type of environment you’re in. If you’re working in a loud, noisy factory, for example, the type of noise produced may differ from the type of noise you’d be exposed to working at a music concert or festival. 

This expert knowledge will enable your audiologist to offer more tailored advice, which will ensure you choose the right type of hearing protection for your ears, your hearing and your level of noise exposure. 

Selecting the best hearing protection

Although hearing protection can prevent unnecessary hearing damage and minimize the risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss, the same type of hearing protection may not be suitable for every environment. 

If you go from a factory to a construction site, for example, the difference in noise level and the type of noise being produced may mean that you need to switch to a different type of hearing protection. By assessing your environment and measuring the noise you’re exposed to, you can provide your audiologist with the information they need to help you find the best hearing protection.

To find out more about choosing the right hearing protection, contact The Center for Audiology now at Houston by calling 713-255-0035 or at Pearland by calling 713-800-5050.