According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) impacts 26 million individuals of every age in the U.S.. NIHL is a permanent or temporary loss of hearing brought on by contact with a hazardous sound level – 85 decibels (dB) and up. For example, steady loud sounds such as city traffic are about this level, and firearms, firecrackers and motorcycles can be in excess of 120 decibels. Thankfully, there are many types of hearing protection devices sold at your local hardware or sports store to accommodate the diverse noise levels in many different situations.

The rating system for hearing protection.

The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the US standard rating system for the level of protection offered from a specific device.The rating range from 0 to 33 decibels with the larger rating providing greater ear protection.

Deciding Between Earplugs and Earmuffs

Electronic earmuffsElectronic earmuffs may look like regular earmuffs, with plush padding that covers the ears, but they are really quite different. Other earmuffs include 2-way communication for individuals on dangerous worksites. There are even earmuffs that let you enjoy the radio while you’re in a noisy spot, which is nice when blowing leaves or mowing the lawn.

Electronic earplugs – Electronic earplugs are compact devices placed inside the ear to block extremes in external noise, while still enabling you to hear lower-level sounds close to you. In addition, they react and adapt to deaden unexpected noises, such as a shot from a gun or a cymbal. Other ear plugs may even improve your hearing by making normal sounds clearer while still keeping out the dangerous sounds. These may be especially helpful in situations where earmuff-type protection is too cumbersome or in situations where the wearer needs protection from recurrent loud noises but still has to hear other sounds in the environment.

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