The right ear protection for you
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Ear protection

Ear protection

Exposure to loud noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Fire fighters, police officers, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians etc. Even those sounds that we choose - those sounds to which we're exposed while we're enjoying recreational activities - can be dangerous to our hearing. Noise levels at video games, live music concerts, and sport events, can pose a risk to hearing.

How loud is too loud?

To know if a sound is loud enough to cause damage to your ears, it is important to know the level of intensity and the length of exposure to the sound. The unit used to measure sound intensity is the decibel (dBA). Zero decibels is approximately the softest sound the healthy human ear can hear. The scale increases logarithmically; that is, the level of perceived loudness doubles every 10 decibels. Experts agree that continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA, over time, could harm hearing. In general, the louder the sound, the less time required before hearing will be affected.

Pay attention to the warning signs

Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative across whole life. Often, by the time a person realizes that there is hearing loss, it is too late. But there are certain early warning signs to suggest that there may be a problem. If you experience any of the following early warning signs, please visit an otorhinolaryngologist.

  • A ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in the ears immediately after exposure to noise
  • A slight muffling of sounds after exposure making it difficult to understand people when you leave a noisy area
  • Difficulty understanding speech; that is, you can hear all the words, but you can't understand all of them

Protect your hearing

To avoid noise-induced hearing loss, pay attention to the noises around you and turn down the volume whenever possible. Avoid or shorten time spent in noisy events, concerts etc. Wear proper hearing protection (foam earplugs or earmuffs, when you must be in a noisy environment or when using louder equipment).

Questions and Answers about Hearing Protection

  • Excuse: I don't need hearing protection; I am used to the noise. Response: Ears do not get used to noise - they "get deaf" (and unfortunately a deafened ear may often seem to get used to the noise). Repeated exposure to noise does not toughen ears nor does having an existing noise induced hearing loss prevent you from losing the hearing you have left. Although individual susceptibility to hearing loss from noise exposure varies widely, there are currently no standardized tests that can detect the more noise sensitive members of the population.
  • Question: I've already lost some or most of my hearing. Why should I have to wear hearing protection? Response: The existence of a noise induced hearing loss does not protect one from further loss of hearing due to noise exposure. Initially hearing is damaged in the higher frequencies and as the unprotected exposures continue, this damage spreads to the lower frequencies, eventually affecting those essential to the understanding of speech (500 Hz to approximately 3000 Hz).
  • Complaint: Hearing protectors are uncomfortable. Response: HPDs are often uncomfortable initially, but hearing loss due to noise exposure is "uncomfortable" permanently. Like a new pair of shoes or glasses, hearing protectors do require a reasonable period of adjustment. Since not all hearing protectors adapt equally well to all head shapes and earcanals, it is important to give the employee the final choice in what he or she will wear.
  • Complaint: I can't hear my co-workers if I wear hearing protectors. Response: When the ear is influenced by high level sound, it overloads and distorts, reducing its ability to accurately discriminate different sounds. Wearing hearing protectors reduces the overall sound levels so that the ear can operate more efficiently. The effect is similar to the improved vision that sunglasses provide in very bright, high-glare conditions.
  • Question: Do earmuffs block out noise better than earplugs? Response: No. The misconception that earmuffs are better than earplugs at reducing noise is partly due to the "bigger is better" school of thought. Actually, whether or not an earmuff or an earplug is better is dependent upon the device and user in question.
  • Question: Can earplugs cause ear infection? Response: Based on our experience during the past decade, it appears that the likelihood of earplugs causing outer ear infections is minimal. Although it would seem that placing a dirty or gritty foreign object in the ear canal could easily lead to irritation or infection, but it was indicated that the external ear is fairly resistant to such abuse. Nevertheless, cleanliness should be stressed and certain individuals, such as diabetics and those who are prone to infection, should be more carefully monitored.
  • Question: Can hearing protectors cause headaches, nosebleed, ulcers, insomnia or eyestrain? Response: Headaches may be caused by protectors that fit too tightly, or are in some other way uncomfortable. The protectors should be resized, refitted or another device issued. There are no known medical or physiological reasons why protectors should be suspected of causing any of the remaining maladies listed above. However, when an employee voices such complaints, this indicates dissatisfaction with the protectors he is wearing, a misunderstanding of the need for its use, or a real health problem that has been mistakenly attributed to the use of the protector.

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