The best defense against noise-induced hearing loss is to stay out of hazardous noise areas. But when spending any amount of time in a noisy environment, use hearing protection devices.
When used correctly, Hearing protection devices (HPDs) help prevent hearing loss. And always remember, that the discomfort of wearing them, if any, is nothing compared to the permanent effects and discomfort of a hearing impairment or a worsened hearing loss.
Using earplugs or earmuffs can be effective measures to protect your hearing in noisy environments at work or at play. In addition, handcrafted custom-fitted ear molds with filters are available, often at considerable cost, but well worth the price for those who wear hearing protection frequently.
- DO NOT expect any meaningful hearing protection from wearing headphones. In fact, drowning out toxic noise with stereo headphones may be counterproductive. These devices alone can generate equivalent noise exposures up to approximately 100 dB.
- DO NOT expect any benefit from such non-standard earplugs as cotton, cigarette filters, putty, gum and even empty bullet casings (on the shooting range). They present multiple risks to your hearing because they don't effectively attenuate sound, they are uncomfortable and they are unhygienic.
- DO use a clean finger tip in a noise emergency. When forced tightly into the ear canal fingertips do provide good protection.
Sources: Hearing Rehabilitation Quarterly, League for the Hard of Hearing, April, 2001; American Society of Safety Engineers, Professional Safety, August, 2002
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