Around 30 million people in the U.S. are exposed to unsafe noise levels, representing one of the top work-related threats over the previous 25 years, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Good news: it’s possible to prevent work related hearing loss. All you have to do is use custom fit ear ones rather than foam ones.
The sound measure at which repeated exposure can result in severe hearing damage: 85 decibels
The sound level hit by a rock concert, which is not-so-good news for musicians or show goers: 100 decibels.
Work-related hearing loss affects thousands
Check out this all-too-familiar narrative. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2009 there were 21,000 occurrences of occupational hearing loss reported.
Kevin Twigg of Stockport, England knows all about the work-related risks of noise. He in fact worked on screening and fixing police car sirens — which reach between 106 to 118 decibels — for more than 30 years.
After his retirement from the job, Twigg started to experience severe tinnitus in addition to substantial hearing loss that required the use of hearing aids. Without having taken the protective methods that would lessen those noise levels, Twigg’s employer was found responsible in court, losing a case in which Twigg would win a huge settlement.
High decibel levels can be found everywhere, in normal work related activities: a power saw can reach 110 decibels, a newspaper press 97, a chain saw 120, a sporting event 105, and a aircraft takeoff 150. music players, manufacturing plant workers, construction workers, airport personnel, emergency personnel, plumbers, and craftsmen are all at risk of developing extreme hearing loss and tinnitus.
How to protect your ears at work
There’s an issue at play here. While we all need the services of performers, contractors, and emergency and construction staff, power saws and law enforcement sirens can’t really be made any quieter.
But if you cut down the level of noise that comes in through your ear, you can help things.
Yes, it’s easy and cheap to drive to the local store and pick up some disposable foam ear plugs, but there is a better alternative.
The preferred method requires the use of custom-fit ear plugs, often times referred to as musicians plugs. Your hearing practitioner can tailor them specifically to you, your occupation, and your preferences.
4 reasons why custom-fit ear plugs are a better choice than the foam kind
It’s interesting to note the many reasons why custom-fit ear plugs are superior to foam ear plugs.
1. Preservation of sound quality
Basic foam ear plugs mute speech and music. By suppressing noise mostly in the high frequency range, rather than in the mid-to-low frequency range, music and voices appear to be unnatural and unclear. Custom-fit ear plugs will lower sound more consistently across frequencies while lessening sound volume by a lower decibel level, thereby maintaining the natural quality of speech and music. Foam ear plugs also diminish sound by 30-40 decibels, which is not needed for the deterrence of hearing injury.
2. Cost & convenience
Some costs of throw-away foam plugs:
$3.99 for 10 pairs equals $0.39 per pair
$0.39 per pair X 5 days per week X 52 weeks per year X 4 years = $405.60
With custom-fit ear plugs, you will save cash in the long run and will avoid all of those journeys to the store. No one enjoys purchasing ear plugs, so while the initial visit to the audiologist seems like a burden, in the long run you will also conserve time.
Conversely, custom ear plugs can last up to four years, ordinarily at a price tag of well below $100.
4. Help the environment
Throw-away ear plugs can be wasteful:
5 days per week X 52 weeks per year = 260 pairs of foam ear plugs tossed out each year.
You can do your part to curb work-related hearing loss – just get custom ear plugs instead of the garden variety.