Exposure to loud sounds can cause noise-induced hearing loss; behind aging, this is the most common cause of hearing loss. Fortunately, protecting your ears with the use of earplugs can help prevent damage that causes hearing loss. But not all forms of protection are created equal. Custom hearing protection is a better option for a number of reasons.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can cause damage to the tiny hair cells within the inner ear, which are responsible for translating sound vibrations into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain to be processed.
Below is the average decibel rating for familiar sounds according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dB
- Movie theater: 74-104 dB
- Motorcycle: 80-110 dB
- Sporting events and concerts: 94-110 dB
- Sirens: 110-129 dB
- Fireworks: 140-160 dB
Earplugs are able to prevent dangerously loud sounds from entering the ear and causing irreversible damage. There are two options when it comes to protecting your hearing: disposable and custom-made earplugs.
The most common type of disposable earplugs in the United States are slow-recovery foam earplugs; in fact, they account for 75 percent of all disposable earplugs sold.
To use these earplugs correctly, you must roll them into a small cylinder and insert them deep into your ear canal. In order to keep them in place as they slowly expand to fill the ear canal, you have to hold them in. This process can take as long as two minutes, with cooler temperatures making it take even longer.
Many users do not follow the directions and experience a lower level of noise reduction than what’s possible with the earplugs.
Since these earplugs are single use, they can be costly over time. Not to mention the environmental impact of throwing them away after each use.
Custom earplugs are created from an impression taken of your ear. This guarantees that the measurements of your ear canal, concha and helix are all taken into account when crafting the earplug. The impression is taken in your audiologist’s office while experienced technicians create the earplugs in a laboratory.
Most opt for a silicone material for their earplugs because of its durability. With proper care, these earplugs can last three to five years.
While disposable earplugs are marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution, those with unusual shaped and sized ears are unable to use them. Custom-made earplugs can be successfully fit to a wide range of ears.
These earplugs can be easily replaced if lost or damaged, as the impressions and mold last for five years.
Custom earplugs provide superior sound quality and comfort. If you find yourself using disposable earplugs regularly, the custom-made option can be cheaper in the long run.
To learn more about the benefits of custom earplugs or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact LeMay Hearing & Balance today.