Custom Hearing Protection
They say prevention is the best medicine, and this is true nowhere more than your ears. While hearing loss remains incurable (and will remain so for the foreseeable future), simply blocking the pathways of sound into your ears can completely prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). With as many as 19% of American teenagers having measurable hearing loss in both ears today, it’s time to take action against hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Protection
Hearing protection breaks down into two main categories: earplugs and earmuffs. Earplugs fit snugly into the ear canal to prevent sound from passing through to the eardrum, whereas earmuffs form a seal around the entire pinna (the outermost part of the ear that collects sound, funnels it into the ear canal, and aids in determining the directionality of sound). Both are available with a range of sound level reduction from about 15 to 30 dB.
Much more portable and easily-wearable than earmuffs for most people, earplugs are the better choice for daily hearing protection. Depending on your activities, one type of earplugs will be more appropriate for you than another. For work in a factory or time at a shooting range, foam earplugs with a high level of attenuation (sound reduction) make the most sense. However, these earplugs will reduce high frequencies to a far greater degree than low frequencies, and they fit tightly in the ear canal which can be uncomfortable and, over time, can even change the shape of the ear canal.
A professional musician, even and especially a classical musician, is at high risk for occupational hearing loss. Foam earplugs, with their tendency to skew the frequency spectrum, are not appropriate to the kind of sensitive attention that must be paid to musical sound. Other varieties with silicone fins will not attenuate as much but will leave the frequency balance more intact, which is more appropriate for music. However, these can still be uncomfortable for many people to wear for a long period.
At Evergreen Audiology, we offer custom, form-fitted earplugs for all activities and lifestyles. We take a mold of your ear and make an insertable plug out of medical-grade silicone into which a number of attenuators can be fitted. The quality of sound that can be retained with a plug of this style simply cannot be matched by generic earplugs of any kind.
Because they are molded for your ears, custom earplugs stay in place better than generic plugs while also being much more comfortable to wear for longer periods. They are also designed to maintain the natural balance of frequencies perfectly — another quality that no generic plug can offer. They are also vented so that sound can pass both ways and there is no vacuum chamber created, so your own voice doesn’t become distorted or reverberate in your own ears.
These custom plugs are fitted with attenuators ranging from 10 to 27 dB, so whether you’re playing in an acoustic jazz band, motorcycling, or hitting the shooting range, there’s a degree of attenuation for you. And you can change the attenuators yourself, so you can use the same custom-fit plugs for all the activities that are important to you.
Life is getting louder, and keeping your hearing sharp is one aspect of your long-term health and well-being that has ripple effects throughout your physical and emotional health. Keeping a pair of earplugs with you at all times is crucial to being able to safely engage in whatever life brings your way on a given day.
Environments with sound levels over 70 dBA can cause hearing loss over extended periods. At 85 dBA (about the noise level of a gas-powered lawn mower) it takes about 8 hours for hearing loss to occur, and for every 3 additional dBA the time is cut in half. By the time we get to 110 dBA (gas-powered leaf blower), it takes less than two minutes to cause hearing loss. If you’re not sure whether your day-to-day environments are safe, download an SPL (sound pressure level) meter app on your smartphone and check your environments. You might be surprised how often you’re coming into contact with dangerous sound levels. And if you need to be wearing earplugs on a regular basis, custom-fit is the most comfortable and most enjoyable listening experience.