The Importance of Properly Fitting Hearing Protection
Hearing protection devices are vital pieces of equipment designed to keep your ears safe in high-volume environments. People use hearing protection in all kinds of situations, from protecting their ears at rock concerts to preventing damage while working on a building site. All hearing protection devices come with a noise reduction rating, but this rating only applies if the hearing protection fits properly.
Hearing protection devices come in two flavors: earplugs and earmuffs. For either to work correctly, they must fit the ear snugly to prevent the transmission of sound wave energy. If they don’t fit in the right way, then sound waves can bypass them and penetrate the inner ear, with little to no reduction in intensity.
Prevent noise-induced tinnitus
One of the most common and debilitating consequences of failing to wear appropriately fitting hearing protection is tinnitus. Tinnitus is a chronic, persistent sound in the ears that doesn’t emanate from any external physical source. Endogenous tinnitus caused by exposure to loud noises is a fabrication of the brain. People who work in noisy environments can often develop noise-induced tinnitus, simply as a byproduct of their work.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational health hazard in the country. It affects people across a range of industries, including manufacturing and construction. The most at-risk sector appears to be metalworking because of the noises generated when shaping metal into useful products. People in these industries are at a much higher risk of developing persistent ringing, buzzing, and whirring noises that don’t disappear when they finish work.
Prevent noise-induced hearing loss
Not only do loud noises cause tinnitus, but they can also lead to full-blown hearing loss. Our ears evolved during a time when the loudest noises that we heard were the odd crack of thunder. But the modern world continually exposes us to sounds that are vastly more than the machinery of our inner ears can handle. The sound of jet engines, power tools, rock concerts, and hammering pieces of metal can all take their toll.
Over time, high-volume noises damage the sensitive internal tissues in the ear, leading to hearing loss. To start, the hearing loss might be subtle, but over time, it can grow to the point where a person can’t perceive the auditory world around them.
Fitting hearing protection properly
As discussed, there are two main categories of hearing protection: earmuffs and earbuds. Ensuring that both fit correctly is essential, but how can you make sure?
Earplugs slot into the ear canal and expand, forcing sound waves to travel through them as they move towards the inner ear.
For earplugs to work correctly, they have to expand to fill the volume of the ear canal. They won’t work if perched on the entrance to the ear canal or inserted only partially.
To insert earplugs, roll up the end and squeeze it between your fingers to make it narrow enough to enter the ear canal. Next, pull on the top of the ear to expose the ear canal and then gently slide the still-squeezed foam earplug into the channel. You may have to push on the outward-facing end of the earplug to ensure that it goes in all the way. Finally, wait for the earplug to expand. Once it’s expanded, it can provide maximum noise reduction.
Some earplugs are made of silicone. You don’t need to follow the process described above to fit these. You do, however, need to choose the right size. As with regular foam earplugs, it’s vital to occlude your entire ear canal to prevent sounds from getting through.
Fortunately, fitting earmuffs is a little more straightforward than earplugs.
If you are using a headband earmuff, then place the earmuffs over your ears and adjust the headband so that the cups surround the whole of your outer ear (including your ear lobes).
If you are using a multiple-position earmuff, then you may have to make some additional adjustments. The band on multiple-position devices can sit on the top of the head and the rear. You may, therefore, have to both slide the earcups up and down and adjust the length of the headband, depending on the angle you are wearing it.
If you’d like to find out more about how to ensure that your hearing protection fits properly, then get in touch with Audiology Clinics of Puerto Rico. Call our Aguadilla office at 787-882-8585 or get in touch with our Mayaguez team at 787-834-0660.