Although it is always best for your hearing to avoid dangerously loud environments, many people are simply not able to escape these situations, particularly in a work setting. In these cases, experts recommend one of two hearing protection options: earmuffs or earplugs. Both of these devices work by lowering the intensity of sound before it reaches a person’s ear drum, but earmuffs are worn outside the ear while earplugs are inserted directly into the outer ear canal. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, earplugs are only effective when they form a completely air-tight seal in the ear canal. To make sure the canal is sealed, earplugs come in many sizes and shapes. They can also be custom made by an audiologist on your True Dental Discounts membership plan if you have difficulty finding properly fitting plugs. In addition, some people wear special headbands with earplugs attached in order to make sure they do not fall out of their ear while working in a loud environment. The foundation does not recommend substituting cotton balls for earplugs because make-shift plugs typically only work about half to one-fourth as well as a properly fitting earplug.
However, people who prefer not to wear earplugs can find a good alternative in earmuffs. Earmuffs form an air-tight seal around the outside of the ear and are worn on a headband. People who choose to wear earmuffs should be careful not to wear them while wearing eyeglasses or long hair, both of which will cause the muffs to seal improperly. The headband must also be adjusted to a length that allows the muffs to fit snugly around the ear so no loose space exists to let sound in. If all of these conditions are met, the foundation suggests that people who wear earmuffs or earplugs can reduce their nose exposure by 15 to 30 decibels. That’s like the difference between a rock concert and a movie! The two methods can also be combined, and people who wear earmuffs in addition to earplugs can often increase their protection by another 10 to 15 decibels. If you can only choose one, many experts agree that earplugs are more effective at reducing low-frequency noise, while earmuffs are better at reducing high-frequency noise. When in doubt, always ask your True Dental Discounts audiologist. An audiologist can help identify any emerging damage and show you how to preserve your hearing for years to come.