Twenty-six million Americans — consisting of men, women and children — are affected by noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), as reported by the U.S. (NIH). Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent or temporary loss of hearing ability brought on by exposure to a dangerous sound level – 85 decibels and up. For reference, regular exposure to heavy traffic in the city may reach this decibel level, while fireworks, motorcycles and guns all record decibel levels above 120. Fortunately that your community hardware and sporting goods stores probably have a number of hearing protection devices available that can help protect your hearing in a wide range of scenarios.

The noise reduction rating system.

In the U.S., all products are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for measuring the amount of protection they offer the wearer. The NRR system assigns ratings from 0 dB to 33 dB, with the higher numbers indicating a higher level of protection, or noise reduction.

Picking Earmuffs or Earplugs

Electronic earmuffs

Electronic earmuffs cover the entire ear with a cushioned insulating material and, while many models are similar in appearance to non-electronic earmuffs, they are actually very different. Some earmuff designs are designed for use around sudden and infrequent loud noises, such as gunshots. Other earmuffs offer walky-talky style communication for individuals on dangerous worksites. And others offer AM/FM radio reception, which can provide a bit of entertainment when you’re doing loud work in the yard.

Electronic earplugs

Electronic earplugs provide variable protection, meaning that after these small devices are placed into the ear, they’re able to adapt the level of protection they provide according to to environment. Additionally, they respond and adjust to muffle sudden noises, such as a gunshot or the crash from a cymbal. Some types of electronic earplugs can allow lower-decibel sounds including speech to pass while also blocking dangerous loud noises. Electronic earplugs are especially useful in situations where earmuff-type protection is too cumbersome or in conditions where the user needs protection from recurrent loud noises but still needs to hear other sounds in the surroundings.

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