“It is hunting season! My favorite time of the year. Let’s go shoot the guns, break out the bows and enjoy life.” Chad stated. “I pray you enjoy every day of hunting season this year and in the future. Let’s get some protection for those ears before we head out. Unless you don’t want to enjoy the sounds of your family and friends later.” I indicated. “What are you getting at, Doc? That if I hunt I will lose my hearing from a single gun blast, really?” Chad questioned. “Really! It is not just your guns but loud sounds in general. You do know you are not the only one in the group with your gun going off, correct?” I noted.
Hearing protectors like people come in all shapes and sizes. From the ordinary to customized. The priorities of the sport or activity and the cost you are willing to pay. Hearing protectors are utilized to protect your hearing and ears from loud noises and debris. One way to choose the best hearing protection for you is to understand the NRR rating. This measurement is stated in decibels (dB). It measurers the protectors’ ability to block out or attenuate sound. They all have a NRR (noise reduction rating) ranging from 20-40. The NRR is a unit of measurement used to determine the usefulness of the amount of noise reduced exposure within a given sound environment. The NRR which is listed is achieved by the correct placement in the ear canal. In most situations, attenuation is approximately half of the NRR. An example of the NRR rating is if the rating is 20 the hearing protection will most likely block out 10dB of noise.
The least expensive and most used in industrial related areas are the foam plugs. These are foam inserts that are placed in the canal thus plugging the canal from some external noises and debris. They can be attached or unattached with a cord. They are one time use or disposable. They have an NRR from 18-22. Pros are: easy to use, one-time use inexpensive if only using a few times for short periods of time, maintenance free and disposable. Cons: difficult to insert correctly, if not inserted correctly do not get the NRR stated, more expensive over time.
The next level are the muffs. Earmuffs can be placed with or without a digital aspect. Pros: keep ears warm, easy to use and wear, can get digital to reduce the blast and amplify the fine sounds such as leaves rustling, require less training on the correct placement, more economical over time. Cons: require storage space, must take time to clean to reduce and prevent infections, may become uncomfortable in warm weather, can make other protection such as eyeglass more cumbersome. The NRR rating on muffs range from 27-33.
The customized hearing protection are made to fit in your ears and no one else. These have an NRR of 18-32 (depending on the material.) Pros: customized for one user, easy to fit, comfortable to wear, inexpensive over time and long lasting. Cons: requires being made by an Audiologist or hearing instrument specialist, expensive initially. Lastly, but the best option, are the digitals with an NRR of 25-27. Pros: may be custom made or pre-fit, available in various styles similar to hearing aids, amplify sounds below 85dBHL but have a rapid attack release time above. So as the blasts occur, from your gun and others’, they are shutting down. These may be found through Audiologist, online or stores such as Cabela’s. Cons: may be expensive.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.