Here in the Midwest, fall often means noisy activities. Hunting, sporting activities and of course, harvesting in the fields. While these are all great activities, it is important to remember that protecting your hearing is just as important as wearing your bike helmet or protective eyewear!
The general rule is if the noise is loud enough that you need to raise your voice for someone to hear you at an arm’s length, the noise is considered damaging and hearing protection should be used. Of course, the longer you are exposed to loud noise, the more damaging it becomes. Consider mowing your lawn. Here in Carroll there are many large lawns as well as acreages that require over an hour and sometimes many hours of mowing! This is extremely damaging to your hearing. The same can be true for a noisy football game at Kinnick or Jack Trice football stadium, and it is absolutely evident when Iowa and Iowa State play each other! As I mentioned earlier, shooting guns and hunting is very damaging due to the proximity of the barrel of the gun to the ear as well as the overall noise level of the gunfire.
If you aren’t sure if an activity you are doing is damaging, you can download an app on your smartphone called NIOSH Sound Level Meter. This app was designed by sound engineers and is an excellent way to find out if you need to be using hearing protection.
When shopping retail for hearing protection, be sure to look for the Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the better the device is at limiting sound. A NRR of 20 dB is a good rating and will protect you in most circumstances. Foam earplugs and pre-molded can be used repeatedly and then disposed of. It is important to note that foam earplugs can only be reused about five times. Be sure your fingers are clean when preparing your earplugs for insertion! Contaminated earplugs could easily lead to ear infections. Some earplugs have cords or a band connecting the two, which is nice when you are taking the plugs in and out often.
There are many customizable earplug options. If you have small canals and find foam or pre-molded earplugs uncomfortable, I am able to custom make earmolds for your comfort. They can come in a variety of colors or skin tones. If you are a musician, we have plugs that reduce the sound evenly across all pitches. This is wonderful to wear when going to a concert because you can enjoy the music without any distortion, at a reduced volume. I love wearing mine!
If you are exposed to loud noise over 100 dB, you should consider using earmuffs. This is often the case when using power tools, certain construction equipment, as well as farm machinery. Any time you are target shooting indoors, you should be wearing earmuffs. In fact, I recommend using both earplugs and earmuffs. Remember, if you are wearing earmuffs and glasses be sure the bow of the glasses is not interfering with the seal of the earmuffs.
People may report that wearing earplugs is difficult because they can’t hear conversation as well as they would like. This is especially true with certain industrial jobs and hunting. We have a solution for this! Electronic hearing protection uses a fast-acting compressor that is activated at loud sound levels (within microseconds), reducing loud sounds immediately, and enhancing soft sounds to enhance communication. In fact, I have had customers say that their electronic hearing protection gives them an advantage when hunting because of the soft sounds they are able to hear!
These types of hearing protection vary in price. Remember, protecting your hearing now saves you money later! By investing in hearing protection now, you can avoid purchasing hearing aids later in life! Of course, if the customizable solutions are too expensive for you, pharmacy earplugs are a good start. The important thing is to make wearing hearing protection a habit. By doing so you are taking better care of your overall health and well-being.