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According to the National Institutes of Health, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects 26 million people of all ages in the U.S.. NIHL can be temporary or permanent, caused by exposure to dangerous sound levels above 85 decibels. By way of comparison, repeated exposure to traffic noise in cities can reach this level, while fireworks, motorcycles and guns all record decibel levels in excess of 120. The good news is, there are many hearing protection devices are available for purchase at sporting goods and hardware stores which can help you save your hearing in these circumstances.

A hearing protection scale

In the U.S., all devices are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for measuring the amount of protection they give the wearer. The system assigns ratings from 0 to 33 dB, with the higher numbers indicating a higher level of protection.

Earplugs versus Earmuffs

Electronic earmuffs

Electronic earmuffs cover the entire ear with a soft insulating material and, while most models are similar in appearance to non-electronic earmuffs, they are very distinctive. Other earmuffs include 2-way communication for individuals on dangerous and loud worksites. There are even certain earmuffs that allow you to enjoy the radio when you’re in a noisy location, which is awesome when blowing leaves or mowing the lawn.

Electronic earplugs

Electronic earplugs are small devices placed inside the ear to filter extremes in external noise, while still enabling you to hear lower level sounds around you. In the event of sudden noises, such as gunfire or a crash, the earplugs self-adjust. Different earplugs may even enhance your hearing by making normal sounds more clear while still keeping out the dangerously high volume sounds. These may be especially helpful in conditions where earmuffs are too large or in conditions where the user needs protection from recurrent loud noises but still needs to hear other sounds in the surroundings.

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