Websites, media and other sources say use ear protection if you’re in damaging high level environmental noise whether that’s mowing the lawn, going to a concert or stadium event, or doing some hunting or shooting. This couldn’t be more general or vague.
It depends on if you need to hear in noise. Do you want to enjoy music clearly? Do you want to talk more easily? Do you need to hear prey, predators, or hunting partners? If yes, you need high fidelity hearing protection.
Experts calculated ≥70 dB average noise levels are a hearing health risk. If you think it’s too loud, it’s too loud. If you have to raise your voice to talk to somebody about 3 feet away, it’s too loud.
Regular ear protection is fine if you don’t have to listen to anything or talk to anyone; for example, using a loud blower for yard leaves or using power tools for a woodworking project. Regular earmuffs or solid earplugs are a good option to cut sound energy as much as possible.
If you want to hear music or have conversations, then regular muffs and solid earplugs will distort the sound. Nobody wants to hear distorted music, especially if you’ve paid for concert tickets or to get in to a nightclub. Nobody wants to strain to understand conversations or strain their voice loudly talking back and forth while enjoying a sports game, monster truck show, or MMA fight. Nobody wants to go out hunting and not be able to hear what they need to in that environment.
There are lots of manufacturers offering high fidelity hearing protection products. They range in cost from lowest at around $20 for pre-molded earplugs to highest for electronic ear protection. Products with a battery may stop working when using if the battery dies, so that is one thing to consider when choosing. For earplugs, custom-molded musician’s type earplugs from audiologists fit well especially for people who can’t get a good fit with pre-molded earplugs. Here are some sources and reviews for different types of hearing protection:
Note: Active Noise Cancellation is for steady background noise or hum of activity e.g. travelling by airplane, transit, office noise.
What happens if you don’t protect your ears while enjoying that concert or football game at the stadium? At first the damage is permanent. Frayed hearing nerve fibers. Hidden. Invisible. Painless. Maybe some “temporary” hearing loss for a day or two after. Maybe some temporary ringing in the ears (tinnitus). But every time you’re in noise with no hearing protection, the damage keeps getting worse. Turning your high fidelity hearing sound system into a low fidelity hearing sound system with distortion, static, and missing parts. Your favourite music won’t sound so good after all.
Prevent damage before it happens. Always make sure to use properly fitting hearing protection for every noise dose, no matter how short. Keep your hearing system high fidelity by avoiding noise damage to hearing health and communication.
The next time you need to hear music or conversations clearly in noisy environments, will you try high fidelity social hearing protection?