Public health officials believe that nearly 26 million individuals throughout the United States are impacted by noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL can be permanent or temporary, resulting from contact with hazardous sound levels above 85 decibels (dB). The types of sounds that may result in NIHL cover anything from common city traffic at about 85 dB to guns, fireworks and motorcycles which might top 120 decibels. Fortunately that your local hardware and sporting goods shops likely have a number of hearing protection products available that will help protect your hearing in a wide range of circumstances.
The rating system for hearing protection. In the U.S., all devices are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for testing the amount of protection they offer the user. NRR is based on a decibel scale of 0 to 33 with the level of protection increasing with the rating number.
Comparing Earmuffs and Earplugs
Electronic earmuffs – Electronic earmuffs may look like regular earmuffs, with soft insulating material that covers the ears, but they are really quite different. Some are designed specifically for people who encounter firearms on a routine basis, such as police, soldiers or hunters. Other types include a built-in radio system to enable communication between people doing work in noisy environments. You can even find certain earmuffs that allow you to enjoy the radio when you’re in a noisy spot, which is great when mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.
Electronic earplugs – Electronic earplugs are placed just inside the ear and offer variable protection, meaning the level of protection raises or lowers based on outside noises. Earplugs are able to respond rapidly to protect the wearer against sudden loud noises like and exploding firework or gunshot. Different ear plugs may even improve your hearing by making normal sounds more clear while still keeping out the dangerous noises. Electronic earplugs can be especially useful in conditions where earmuffs could be too bulky and get in the way.