Do's and Don'ts of Selecting Ear Protection
Few of us realize just how delicate our ears are. Every time we come into contact with loud noise, we risk causing damage to the sensitive apparatus that allows us to hear. After coming out of a live music venue or a noisy bar or club, you've likely noticed that the world outside seems to have the volume turned down. You may also experience tinnitus, which is a distracting ringing in your ears. For most of us, this goes away within 24 hours. Nonetheless, if you work or spend a lot of your free time in noisy environments, it's essential to take steps to protect your ears.
Let's look at some of the do's and don'ts when it comes to selecting the right ear protection for you.
Do: Use custom-molded earplugs
The inside of your ear canal is as individual and unique as your fingerprint. While you may be able to find some affordable one-size-fits-all solution, these may not necessarily block out all ambient noise and can still allow damage to your ears. It's always worth paying a little extra to get earplugs that are molded to your ears.
Don't: Share earplugs
If your spouse or partner also uses earplugs, as close as you may be, it's not advisable to share earplugs with them. Your delicate ear canals are prone to infection (earwax, unpleasant as it may be, prevents infections from reaching the inner ear). And swapping earplugs can increase your risk of an uncomfortable and debilitating inner ear infection.
Do: Clean your earplugs regularly
Even if you're not sharing earplugs with someone else, they can still represent a risk of infection if they are not correctly handled and maintained. Reduce your risk of bacteria growth by wiping them off daily after use.
Don't: Forget the noise reduction rating
Don't make the mistake of thinking that all ear protection is equal. Different ear protection will have varying noise reduction ratings that will give you an idea of intended use. For example, if you're a musician or someone who works in a live music venue, night club or bar, you'll probably want to opt for a noise reduction rating of at least 30.
When it comes to noise reduction ratings, it's best to err on the side of caution. Aim for something slightly higher than what you think the rating should be. Your experience may vary from the disclosed noise reduction rating by as much as 50%.
Do: See your audiologist regularly to keep your ears clean
As stated previously, your earwax is an invaluable soldier in the battle against infection. However, if you're wearing earplugs regularly, your earwax may not be able to escape out of your ears as normal and may result in buildup which can lead to hearing impediments and, again, risk of infection.
With this in mind, you should book regular meetings with your audiologist for examination and cleaning of your ears. It's highly recommended that you get your ears cleaned by a trained professional rather than attempting to do it yourself with an over-the-counter solution.
Stick to these do's and don'ts, and you'll get the most out of your ear protection.