Wearing hearing protection is the best preventative measure you can take to reduce your odds of developing noise induced hearing loss. For maximum effectiveness, consider custom earplugs that have been molded to fit the contours of your ears.
Custom Earplug Styles
Earplugs were developed to protect the ears from loud noise and to prevent foreign objects from entering the ear canals. There are a variety of shapes and styles available, many of them geared toward specific leisurely activities.
Earplugs are made from a variety of materials. Memory foam earplugs are compressed and placed in the ear, where they expand to fill the canal and protect it from excess noise. Silicone earplugs are rolled into a ball and positioned over the external portion of the ear canal. Flanged earplugs look like miniature Christmas trees, with the flanged section inserted into the ear. All are great for protecting against excess noise, and are rated by decibel level. They may be disposable or non-disposable.
Musicians, who are exposed to high levels of sound for long periods of time, can benefit from custom high-fidelity earplugs that reduce sound levels evenly and allow higher frequencies to come through. This prevents speech and music from sounding muffled or distorted, and allows the musician to hear his or her own instrument clearly while reducing the risk of developing permanent hearing damage. Many include interchangeable attenuators that allow for different levels of noise reduction based on different situations.
Swimmers, surfers, and those with frequent exposure to water are at risk for developing ear infections and other disorders such as exostosis, a condition that leads to bone growth in the ear canal and may cause permanent hearing loss. Special swimmer’s earplugs designed to keep water out of the ear canals and prevent long-term damage are available.
Hunters and those involved in law enforcement are often exposed to sudden loud noises, such as gunshots or explosions that can cause immediate and permanent hearing damage. Specially designed electronic earplugs contain an acoustic filter that offers dynamic range compression to soften loud noises while amplifying quieter ones. They include a valve that closes automatically when struck by a sound pressure wave, offering instantaneous protection.
Using Earplugs Safely
While earplugs are safe to wear for the most part and offer excellent protection, some care should be taken when using them. Compress them as much as possible before inserting in the ear canal, and remove them as if you were “unscrewing” them rather than just yanking them from the ear. Make sure you don’t place them too far in your ear canals, or you may find yourself dealing with impacted earwax.