It is always best to reduce noise at its source. And while we are always working to change people's minds and changing our by-laws concerning noise protection, there are some ways we can protect ourselves as we go about our everyday lives.
When we consider hearing protection as being a trade-off between personal comfort and the best possible fit. Let us think about the following, if we completely stopped up our ears with a very dense acoustic material, that would certainly give us the best noise reduction, but then the pressure created inside our ear canals would be unbearable.
The two main types of hearing protection are ear muffs and ear plugs.
We will focus on the ear plugs being that they are the cheapest, and the most accessible and also appropriate for everyday wear.
Keep in mind that the success of any ear plug is not the brand name you buy, but it is in how you use the ear plugs.
As you gain more experience on how to fit and use your ear plugs, the greater the protection you obtain. Almost any product on the market for noise reduction will be adequate if you know how to use it.
There are three different kinds of ear plugs:
Universal, Pre-moulded and
- Universal (one-size-fits-all)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â These type of ear plugs are usually made of foam or sponge. Starting with clean hands, you first roll and compress each plug between your thumb and forefinger and then insert firmly, and as far into the ear canal as possible. You need to give the ear plug a few seconds to expand fully inside the ear canal, so that it can assume the shape of the ear canal itself. Universal ear plugs are reusable so don't throw them out after just one use. You can wash them in mild soap and water and keep using them until they lose their sponginess or begin to harden. You can find these ear plugs and other types of hearing protection by clicking here.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Because these ear plugs are made of rubber or plastic (to hold the shape better) that also makes them less flexible than the universal type. These plugs usually come in sizes of extra-small, small, medium, large and extra large. If you're a woman you should know that most pre-moulded ear plugs on the market today are still made for men. If you think you are a "medium" you might want to drop down a size.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â You'll need someone to assess the size of your ear canal - preferably an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser - but if that's impossible you can experiment for yourself.
The general rule of thumb is that 2/3 of the ear plug should be inside the ear canal (from the juncture of the outer ear) and about 1/3 exposed. If more of the ear plug is lost in the ear canal you'll know it's too small for your ear. And if too much is exposed you'll know it's too big.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â To ensure the best fit and protection, insert the ear plug after pulling the outer ear outwards and upwards, using the left hand for the right ear and the right hand for the left (that is opposite hand to opposite ear as illustrated in the diagram).
Pre-moulded ear plugs are also reusable (following the same method as for universal), cost approximately $2-$5.00 and are available at most drugstores.
- Custom molded
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â These type of ear plugs are the most complicated and costly to make and use of all the ear plugs. To use this type It requires you to pay a visit to an audiologist or a hearing aid dispenser where a silicone impression is made for each ear. Custom molded ear plugs cost around $75.00-100.00
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â These ear plugs may have a sophisticated look, they are not always the most practical or easiest to use. These type of earplugs require more practice for the user to wear comfortably, and they tend to be larger in size (to fit the canal as well as the outer ear) and may crack and shrink with age.
People that have unusual sized ear canals, or their work requires special protection, or if they are used to wearing ear molds with a hearing aid, then these plugs might not be the most appropriate. Again, if the hearing protection is too frustrating to use, chances are you won't use it - and that defeats the purpose of the protection.
There is very little difference in the amount of noise reduction provided in any of these three ear plugs when used for for social, recreational, casual, and everyday use,