We are exposed to sound on a daily basis. Volume levels vary considerably, and can easily exceed 85 decibels (dB) – the threshold that is considered safe. Any prolonged exposure to noise exceeding this is harmful and can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss.
Excess noise exposure isn’t the only cause of hearing damage. Diseases, drugs and injury may all contribute to hearing loss. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your hearing and help prevent hearing impairment.
Hearing loss from exposure to loud sounds is painless, progressive and permanent. The good news is through protection and limiting your exposure to loud sound levels, you can prevent hearing damage.
Hearing damage has been noted to occur when sounds exceed 85 decibels (dB). When dealing with noises over this range it is important to protect your ears with the use of ear protection. It is recommended to use ear protection while being around the following noises.
- Motorcycles, hair dryers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers (85-100dB)
- Woodshops, chainsaws, small firecrackers (100-110dB)
- Rock concerts (100-120dB)
- Ambulance sirens, jet engines at close range (119-140dB)
If you notice the following symptoms after exposure to loud sounds, you may be over-exposed and could potentially be causing long-term damage:
- Voices suddenly sound muffled and are hard to understand.
- You experience ringing, buzzing or fluttering in one or both ears (otherwise known as tinnitus).
- Your ears hurt after being in a loud place.
- Your hearing is suddenly super sensitive to noise.
There are many different forms of ear protection. Read more below to find the right fit for you.
Foam Earplugs: This form of ear protection is disposable and expands to fit in your ear canal. Foam plugs will reduce all sounds to some extent, and are great for reducing higher-pitched sounds. These earplugs are inexpensive and available at your local drugstore.
Pre-Molded Earplugs: Made from plastic, silicone or rubber, these reusable earplugs are used for more evenly reduced sounds. They are also created for work environments that are dirty or dusty because there is no need to mold them with your hands. These earplugs are available in multiple sizes to accommodate all ear canal sizes. When inserted properly they should fit in a way that completely seals the ear canal. Pre-molded plugs are inexpensive and available over the counter.
Custom-Molded Earplugs: These earplugs are created to fit the individual shape of your ear canal. Custom molds are extremely comfortable, and reduce the sound equally across high and low spectrums, making this earplug ideal for musicians and concertgoers. You may have custom-molded earplugs ordered by scheduling an appointment at one of our offices.
Earmuffs: This type of ear protection creates an acoustic seal around the outer ear through a solid shell. Earmuffs are perfect for people who use ear protection often. A downfall to this type of protection can be the heaviness and bulkiness. Earmuffs may be purchased online or in a sporting goods store.
Did you know that over 30% of pop/rock musicians suffer from Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)? NIHL damage is caused by overexposure to sounds in a sudden spurt or through long/repeated exposure to sounds over 85 decibels (dB). The average concert is measured around 110-130dB – far exceeding the danger zone!
Hearing protection plays a large part in musicians protecting their hearing, as NIHL is 100% preventable! Our doctors of audiology are experts in the needs of musicians – helping find protection that will maintain your hearing health, while still allowing in the sounds of music and the crowd! From garage band performances to sold-out stadium tours, allow our doctors to help keep your ears safe from the high decibel dangers.
Custom Molded Musician’s Plugs
Why use custom molded musicians’ plugs? Most over-the-counter earplugs can cause distortion of the signal you are listening to. Custom molded plugs allow the volume of the signal to be brought down in order to protect your hearing while also maintaining the integrity of the signal. Musicians’ earplugs are particularly useful because the amount of volume reduction can be changed. Each pair of plugs comes with the option of a 9dB, 15dB, or 25dB volume reduction filter. Different filters may be purchased and are interchangeable to meet the wearer’s every need.
Custom Fit Monitors
What is a custom in-the-ear monitor? A custom in-the-ear monitor is a custom-fit earpiece that allows a musician to protect his/her hearing while also being able to monitor the sound of different instruments and voices on the stage. The input to the monitors is mixed by a sound engineer and can be adjusted to the musician’s preference. Through an ear impression, these monitors are tailored to each individual’s ear in order to promote maximum hearing protection and to maintain the integrity of all sounds on stage.
Universal Fit Monitors
What is the difference between a universal fit monitor and a custom fit monitor? A universal monitor is designed as much like the earbuds often used with MP3 players. While universal-fit monitors differ significantly from custom fit monitors in price, they also differ in fit and sound quality. Universal fit monitors do not create a good seal in the ear; therefore they do not attenuate sound and protect your hearing as effectively as custom monitors. Also, since the fit is not customized, this allows outside noise into the ear, requiring the monitor volume to be increased, which may degrade sound quality as well as cause you to reach the limits of your monitoring equipment. Although any in-ear monitor is better than no monitor at all, a custom fit monitor provides the best possible protection of hearing and sound monitoring abilities.
Occupational noise hazards are often overlooked by employees and employers. Through continued exposure over time, noise level hazards can create permanent Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Our doctors of audiology work with professionals to find the hearing protection that will best block dangerous sounds while optimizing the communication at hand.
Available Hearing Protection for Professionals
- Communicator earplugs: Communicator earplugs are custom fit earplugs which are equipped with a filter allowing some sound awareness and speech understanding. These are particularly useful for professionals working in a noisy environment, but also need to remain alert. These plugs will allow you to be aware of environmental sounds and communicate effectively with coworkers while still protecting your hearing.
- Pilot and communication earplugs: Specific custom ear pieces are made for use with communication headsets often used by law enforcement officials, pilots, telephone operators, and air traffic controllers. These ear pieces feature a custom fit ear piece which helps reduce interference from background noise as well as maintain comfort throughout the work day. These devices can be made compatible with most headset systems.
- Stethoscope earmolds: Whether you are a hearing aid user or not, there are many options for making your stethoscope more comfortable. Custom ear pieces can be created to couple with ear tubes of the stethoscope in order to increase comfort and help decrease ambient noise which can interfere with auscultation. Custom ear pieces can also be created to help couple a stethoscope to in-the-ear hearing aids in order to use both devices together.
- Racing headsets: Racing headsets are custom fit to allow some protection from noise exposure while also allowing the driver to communicate with the pit crew. These ear pieces can be made to be compatible with most headset systems and are made specifically to fit nicely beneath a racing helmet.
- Custom earplugs: No matter what your job is, if you work around loud noise it is important to wear hearing protection. Custom fit hearing protection can provide more comfort than over-the-counter hearing earplugs since they are custom fit to the individual’s ear. Research has shown that custom fit earplugs are also more effective at reducing environmental noise than standard over-the-counter foam earplugs.
With advancements in technology, our personal exposure to noise has increased significantly over the years. From MP3 players to surround sound, we spend our days surrounded by high decibel levels of sounds. With personal hearing protection, the danger of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be reduced.
Available Personal Hearing Protection
- Custom earbud molds for MP3 players: With the recent boom in MP3 player use has also come a boom in teenage hearing loss as well. It’s important to keep volume at a minimum when listening to MP3 players. This is more easily done with a pair of custom earbuds. Standard earbuds are transformed with custom molded tips to help reduce ambient background noise – allowing listeners to turn their MP3 volume down. These custom earbuds also promote a comfortable fit when using MP3 players on a daily basis or during activities such as exercise.
- Custom headphones: Custom headphones are similar to custom earbuds. These ear pieces differ in that custom headphones have the headphone circuitry housed in the ear piece itself, whereas the custom earbuds have to be used in conjunction with standard earbuds. Custom headphones allow reduction of ambient noise without sacrificing sound quality; they also offer a lower profile than custom earbuds.
- Custom musician earplugs: Musician’s earplugs are great for attending concerts or playing in a band since they are made to bring all sounds down equally instead of distorting the signal like foam earplugs tend to do. These earplugs can be purchased in a variety of filter levels depending on the loudness of your favorite activities. Due to the loudness of most concerts, it’s important to protect your hearing so you can keep enjoying concerts for years to come!
- Motorcycle and sleeping earplugs: Wind noise is often a big problem for motorcyclists, as is finding a comfortable earplug that will fit nicely beneath a motorcycle helmet. We offer custom earplugs that help reduce wind noise and have a low profile specifically for wearing beneath a helmet. The low profile design of these earplugs also makes them comfortable for light sleepers needing to block out ambient noise.
- Swim plugs: Wearing earplugs while swimming or showering is the perfect way to keep moisture out of the ear canals. Custom made earplugs provide a snug, comfortable fit to maximize the plugs’ effectiveness. These plugs also float to prevent loss just in case they should come dislodged from the ear while swimming.
- Hunter earplugs: Hunting is a unique listening experience in that the hunter needs to be able to hear, but needs to be protected from high-level impact noise. A custom earplug can be made to accommodate both of these needs by utilizing a valve which remains open during communication and closes during high-level impact noise such as gunshots. It is extremely important use hearing protection during the use of firearms due to the damage they can cause to your hearing.
Call Evergreen Speech and Hearing Clinic at (425) 454-1883 for more information or to schedule an appointment.