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Twenty-six million Americans — consisting of women, men and kids of all ages — suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), as reported by the U.S. (NIH). Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to unsafe noise levels of 85 decibels (dB) or higher, and can be permanent or temporary. For reference, consistent noises including city traffic are around this decibel level, and fireworks, motorcycles and firearms can reach over 120 dB. The good news is that your neighborhood sporting goods and hardware shops likely have a variety of hearing protection devices on hand to help safeguard your hearing in a wide range of scenarios.
The noise reduction rating system
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the United States standard rating system for the level of protection offered from a specific device.The system assigns ratings from 0 dB to 33 dB, with the higher numbers providing a higher level of protection, or noise reduction.
Deciding Between Earplugs and Earmuffs
Electronic earplugs are compact devices positioned inside the ear to filter extremes in outside noise, while still allowing you to hear normal sounds close to you. They can respond very quickly to protect the user against unexpected loud noises like a crash from a cymbal or an exploding firework. Other ear plugs can even improve your hearing by making normal sounds clearer while still keeping out the dangerous noises. These are particularly helpful for hunting and at construction or industrial sites where loud noises are frequent, but you still need to be able to hear people talking.
Electronic earmuffs may resemble regular earmuffs, with soft padding that covers the ears, but they are really quite different. Some are designed specifically for people who are exposed to gunfire on a routine basis, such as soldiers, hunters or police. Other earmuffs come with a built-in 2-way radio system that allows users to communicate with each other in loud working environments. Still more even offer AM/FM radio reception – perfect for doing noisy yardwork.