Three Ways to Protect Your Hearing

You may not realize it, but damaging your hearing is a real possibility, so protect your years with one of these devices.

Man using snowblower
Most modern hearings protection muffs let you listen to music or take phone calls while protecting your eardrums.3M Safety

Hearing loss has been shown to negatively impact nearly every dimension of the human experience, including physical health, emotional and mental health, perceptions of mental acuity, social skills, family relationships, and self-esteem, as well as work and school performance, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Fortunately, many devices are available to protect your hearing, and some are built for the budget minded. Consider these three types of hearing protection when determining how best to ensure you can hear well into your golden years.

Ear Plugs

Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs
These budget-priced foam inside-the-ear plugs have a noise reduction rating of 32 decibels.Mack's

While not fancy, inexpensive inside-the-ear foam earplugs represent one of the most effective ways to protect your hearing on a budget. According to hearing experts, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dBA can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter amount of time it takes for damage to occur to the inside of the ear. This is measured on a scale where normal conversation is about 60 dBA, a motorcycle is about 90 dBA, and standing beside or near a siren is about 120 dBA. Good-quality foam earplugs can reduce the decibel level of loud noises by 32 decibels or more, meaning they are effective for protecting your ears from noises of about 115 dBA or so. And since they are inexpensive, you can just throw them away if they get so dirty you don’t want to put them in your ear anymore.

Protective Muffs

3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector with Bluetooth technology
These electronic earmuffs are Bluetooth-enabled and have a built-in microphone for taking phone calls without removing them.3M Safety

Protective muffs are also quite effective at protecting your hearing around very loud noises. Some budget-minded units work by simply covering your ears and muffling the sound of loud noises. Many have a noise reduction rating of 25 dB or higher, making them effective around a wide variety of loud noises. Other, usually more costly, protective muffs are battery powered and block out loud noises that the units perceive is above a certain decibel level. Still other, high-end units actually enhance hearing of very soft noises, then are instantly activated to block out sounds that could damage the wearer’s hearing. While those high-end models typically have a fairly high price tag, they are very convenient and the first choice for many people who are around loud noises regularly.

Electronic In-Ear Protection

ISOtunes PRO 2.0 Bluetooth Earplug Headphones
These electronic in-ear plugs are Bluetooth enabled and have a 27-dB noise reduction rating.ISOtunes

Electronic in-ear protection devices are typically the handiest and most expensive. Some top-end models are custom made for your ears and require you to cast a foam mold of your ear shape and send it in to have the plugs made to fit your ears. Others have flexible foam you can roll up that will then expand to fill all of your ear canal. Like with high-quality muffs, many in-ear units also have the ability to enhance quieter sounds, then activate instantaneously to block loud sounds from harming your hearing. Some even have input jacks or are Bluetooth enabled so the user can listen to music or podcasts while at the same time protecting his or her hearing—a true win-win.