Protecting Your Hearing

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With Custom Earplugs From Thigpen Hearing Center, PLLC

Exposure to excessive noise during work or leisure activities can significantly increase a person’s risk of hearing loss and potentially worsen a preexisting hearing problem. Continuous exposure to 90 decibels (dB), for example — about the level of noise you’d encounter on a street with constant, heavy traffic and horns — can irreversibly damage hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound vibrations into nerve signals that travel to the brain.

Exposure to loud music, either at a concert or via headphones, is particularly dangerous since the sound intensity can sometimes reach 110 to 120 dB. Power tools and heavy machinery can also produce similarly damaging noise levels. The traumatic effect of sudden, very loud sounds, like an explosion or the firing of a gun, poses an even greater risk to your hearing. With shotgun fire exceeding 150 dB, unprotected exposure can lead to instantaneous, permanent damage to your hearing.

The good news is that the damaging noise can usually be avoided by turning down the volume or by wearing quality ear protection. Thigpen Hearing Center, PLLC has several types of custom-fit hearing protection available that are substantially more effective and more comfortable than poorly fitting, generic earplugs.

Custom earmolds are specifically made for the shape of your ears and therefore fit snuggly and comfortably. There are styles available for specific noise environments. Mechanics prefer an earmold with a speech filter to allow sound to pass through into your ear, but react to reduce harmful loudness that can damage the ear. In this way, you can communicate with co-workers and still protect your hearing. Musician earplugs are molded with a removable filter that can be replaced for varying loudness such as symphony music or louder rock-and-roll music.

Musician monitors are also available and can be ordered to couple with specific sound systems. Earmold impressions are made according to specific instructions, allowing you to custom order your own musician monitors if desired.

How Loud Is Too Loud?
As a general rule of thumb, if you have to raise your voice to be heard over the music/noise, it is too loud. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, long or repeated exposure to noise levels at or above 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Federal regulations also govern allowable noise levels in the workplace, as well as the employer’s role in providing ear protection. More information on this subject can be found at OSHA.gov. In addition to using ear protection, those who are regularly exposed to noise should have their hearing tested to see if the effects of hearing damage are already present.

If you are exposed to continuous noise in your leisure activities or at work, contact us for advice on the latest earplugs and hearing protection methods that will best suit your needs.