Exposure to excessive noise can damage your hearing over time. It is important to know the effects that noise can cause, and what steps you can take to avoid it. First and foremost, wearing hearing protection reduces your noise exposure level and lowers your risk of permanent hearing loss.
When a noise is too loud, it causes damage to the nerve endings or stereocilia in your ears. Too much of this damage will kill those nerve endings and lead to hearing loss. This damage is caused by not only how loud something is but also by how long you are exposed to the noise. There is no way to restore life to dead nerve endings, any damage caused by exposure is permanent. Other effects may come from damaged nerves in the ear besides hearing loss, including tinnitus. Tinnitus is more commonly known as a “ringing in the ears” and affects millions of people worldwide. It is incurable, permanent, and constant. Other long term conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease are commonly linked to hearing loss. The connection is not fully understood, but a recent study by Johns Hopkins University showed a link between hearing loss and the disease. These reasons create urgency for you to know when and where to use hearing protection.
All hearing protection devices include a NRR rating, or a Noise Reduction Rating. This rating determines the noise exposure reduction of the product, measured in decibels. This rating is often overestimated, as it is calculated in an experimental environment. For example, an average rock concert will have a noise exposure level of 100 dB and if you are wearing protection rated with a NRR of 33 dB, your noise exposure will only be reduced to 87 dB. The math behind this answer would be to take your NRR number, subtract 7, then divide by 2. This new number is the amount of exposure reduced by the hearing protection measured in decibels.
Exposing yourself to loud environments can be damaging in many ways. You must understand the effects of a lifetime of noise exposure in order to take the precautionary steps to avoid permanent damage. Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs should always be worn when working in noisy environments. Protection should be worn when around firearms, motorcycles, lawn equipment, power tools and other situations with similar sound levels.
Hearing Protection Options
One option to protect your hearing is earplugs, though these do not make you immune to loud noises. These lightweight earplugs are popularly used for comfort and protection in a small size. They have a NRR rating of 33 dB and are meant for activities like shooting, loud music, power tools, racing and more.
Another option for hearing protection is earmuffs. This highly reviewed earmuff contains a great NRR score, is compact and comfortable for the user. Muffs tend to be designed around being used in a shooting range, but can be used in many different loud environments including mowing or operating machinery.