What is noise-induced hearing loss?
Hearing loss in general is very common in the United States, and noise-induced hearing loss (sometimes abbreviated NIHL) is one of the more common types of hearing loss Americans experience today. While the end result of NIHL is the same as other types of hearing loss, the cause is very specific and different from others.
NIHL is a type of sensorineural hearing loss, which happens when damage occurs in the inner ear or to the nerves that control your hearing. Loud noise — more specifically, noise that exceeds 70 dB in volume — can damage your hearing organs permanently with consistent exposure, and the louder the sound, the less time it takes to cause damage.
While sudden or prolonged exposure to loud noise can come from a variety of sources, the most common causes of NIHL we see in our practice are:
- Frequently attending (or playing in!) concerts or shows
- Working in construction or other loud industries, like factories, firefighting, or the police force
- Hunting or other shooting activities
It can be hard to predict and protect against unexpected loud noises, like fireworks or sirens, but for those who spend a lot of time in noisy environments, hearing protection is by far the best way to protect against NIHL and maintain the longevity of your hearing abilities.
How do earplugs work to protect your hearing?
Earplugs are a very effective way to protect against NIHL, and how they work is very simple. Earplugs often leverage a sound-absorbing material, like dense foam or silicone, to absorb sound vibrations from the external environment and block them from traveling to the ear drum.
It’s a common misconception that all earplugs will completely block all sounds, effectively making it feel like deafness while wearing them. This isn’t possible because sound vibrations also travel to the eardrum through the cranial bone, so, unless you’re wearing ear plugs for sleeping, you’ll probably still hear a little bit in louder environments while wearing ear plugs.
But, while not completely “soundproof,” earplugs significantly decrease the intensity of the sound in your environment so as not to damage your inner ear.
Who can benefit from custom hearing protection?
For those with less frequent exposure to loud noise, like the occasional concert-goer or Fourth of July firework show enthusiasts, earplugs you can find at the drugstore are often good enough to protect your hearing. After all, some protection is better than none!
But, for those who need protection from even louder sounds or are more frequently exposed to loud noise, a custom earmold may be a good investment to maximize and customize the protection you get from your earplugs.
Custom earmolds can be useful in a variety of situations, including as an accessory to help better fit a hearing aid or to protect your ear canal from water as you swim, but, as a protection against NIHL, here are a few of the more common use cases:
Industrial ear molds
Construction workers, factory workers, firefighters, police officers, and even yard maintenance workers are some of the best candidates for custom earmolds because they are exposed to loud sounds for 40+ hours a week at their jobs, which can cause permanent damage over an entire career in this line of work.
The foam or silicone earplugs you get at the store are not built for prolonged exposure to loud noise and are not usually the most comfortable to wear all day, every day. But, a custom earmold is created to fit your unique ear shape, leading to better and more comfortable protection.
The most common use case for custom ear molds in a recreational setting is for hunters or shooters, as gunshots can be as loud as 150 to 170 dB, depending on the caliber. For those who enjoy shooting at the range, a custom earmold can help protect from gunshot sounds and are often more comfortable than the headphone-style hearing protection used in ranges.
For hunters, it may be harder to wear hearing protection because the perfect shot can sneak up suddenly, and hearing the environment is crucial to a successful hunt. Colorado Ear Care’s shooters’ earplugs are specifically designed for this purpose — they allow environmental sounds while wearing them but kick in once the trigger is pulled to protect.
Earmolds for noisy recreation
From concerts to firework shows to car racing, custom earmolds are a great option for those who enjoy noisy recreational activities because they are designed for your unique ear shape and size, so they are as comfortable as they are protective.
Given their custom nature, earmolds can be used for more than just hearing aid fitting and hearing protection. We offer earmolds that work with a variety of other earpieces, like in-ear monitors for musicians, custom earbuds, or medical diagnostic devices.
Whether you work in a loud industry, are a hunter or shooter, or enjoy attending concerts, it’s crucial to wear hearing protection to reduce or prevent noise-induced hearing loss in the future. And, custom earmolds are a great choice for those looking for a more comfortable protection option designed for long-term wear.
Contact our team today, and let us help you get fitted for some custom earmolds that will keep your hearing healthy for longer.