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When You Should Use Earplugs and Why

ear plugs
Photo by Paul Hudson

It’s undeniable that the world is a noisy place. Every day,we are exposed to an eclectic range of sounds, many of which are excessively loud. When we go to work, roughly 22 million of us experience levels of noise that are considered hazardous. Even in our private lives, we are exposed to varying degrees of noise pollution that can adversely affect our lives and more specifically our hearing. In the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 15% of adults ages 20 to 69 suffer from hearing loss caused by exposure to noise in either their professional or private lives. That raises the question, “What can we do to better protect ourselves?” Ear plugs are just one of the ways to counter the negative effects of loud, damaging noise. Properly fitting ear plugs are snug and thoroughly block the ear canal. They are a discreet and comfortable solution when dealing with loud noises.

Why Use Ear Plugs?

Naturally, one of the most common reasons to use ear plugs is to reduce the amount of sound that enters our ears and to prevent any new loss of hearing. Although they cannot eliminate sound entirely, properly fitted ear plugs can effectively reduce sound by 15 to 30 decibels. When our ears are regularly exposed to extreme noises, this damages and even kills inner-ear nerve endings. The louder the noise,the greater the damage. As these nerve endings die, the result is permanent hearing loss and the eventual need for hearing aids. Even one-time exposure to extreme sounds, such as jet engines, can cause some degree of hearing loss that could be prevented by the use of earplugs. In addition to hearing loss, loud noise can result in ringing of the ears, a condition called tinnitus.

Protecting our hearing isn’t the only reason for using earplugs. Noise can cause stress and elevated adrenaline levels. When we’re exposed to regular stress and anxiety, we risk a number of related health problems, such as high blood pressure and even heart disease. In addition, it can also lead to sleep deprivation, which can cause an elevated pulse and immunosuppression. Using earphones to reduce noise may even prevent minor problems such as an upset stomach.

When to Use Ear Plugs

Ear plugs should be worn whenever you are exposed to prolonged periods of loud noise. Use ear plugs whenever noise is loud enough to cause damage. That means being able to recognize when the noise around us is dangerously loud or has the potential to be. In general, sounds are too loud if you or someone with you has to yell to be heard. Sound that causes ringing or pain in either ear is also too loud. Wear ear plugs when working with loud equipment such as air blowers, lawn mowers, chain saws, and other power tools. Use earplugs when riding loud vehicles such as motorcycles or when fire arms are being discharged. A combination of loud music and screaming, excited fans makes concerts notoriously loud. The extreme noise level at concerts makes them an ideal place to wear ear plugs, as the music can reach between 110 and 140 decibels. Additionally, earplugs can be extremely useful for light sleepers or to block out the sounds of snoring, traffic, or other noise that can interfere with getting a good night’s rest.

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