- Feb 10, 2010
- Hannover, Germany
Did you know that October is National Hearing Protection Month? Probably not, but that’s ok! We don’t see too many fundraising walks for hearing health either. But let this sink in: the loss of hearing is largely irreversible, yet many types of hearing loss (such as Noise Induced Hearing Loss) can be mitigated or prevented altogether. Furthermore, did you know that the stress of loud sounds causes our ears to tense up and hear less clearly? That’s right, healthy hearing is Hi-Fi hearing!
We’re here to help start the conversation about taking hearing protection seriously. Maybe you will feel compelled to find a local audiologist to schedule a hearing test, start taking regular or musician’s earplugs to concerts, or get a refresher on the safe amount (and duration) of noise at work.
Of course, this post is not a substitute for medical advice. But if you made it this far, we’d bet you’re interested in preserving your hi-fi superpower. That’s right, your superpower! Remember, you’re the one everyone reaches out to for gear and music recommendations. That said, it’s easy to forget that hearing health and hi-fi are joined at the hip. Us audiophiles depend on our hearing for making sound decisions (pun intended), and hope to do so for as long as possible.
Below are some helpful links to kickstart your journey to healthier habits. You’ll find that starting an effective hearing protection regimen is surprisingly affordable and easy if you know where to look.
A personalized hearing protection/compensation plan is the job of an audiologist, especially if you believe you’ve already suffered some hearing damage. Your physician can likely refer you to a reputable specialist, however that shouldn’t stop you from familiarizing yourself with who’s geographically convenient to you, or if you need to check insurance coverage ahead of time, etc. In the US, you can enter your zip code into this directory search if a Google search is hit or miss. The ASHA doubles down with speech-language pathologists in their directory. If you’ve experienced some hearing loss but do not require hearing aids, you might even get a recommendation for a Sennheiser assisted listening solution to make listening more productive.
Whether at work or just enjoying life, our ears are constantly exposed to noise. Here are some helpful charts that will help you identify “red flag” situations so you can take preventative measures.
- Yes, this chart was designed for kids but does a great job illustrating the types of noise that can cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Page 20 of this guide gets really specific.
- Working with tools? You definitely need hearing protection! Sound, when measured in decibels, is exponential—visualize it here.
Knowing how loud a concert or job site is can give you peace of mind and inform you of the opportune threshold for mitigation. If you do not have a dedicated SPL meter with you (an interesting ice breaker on a first date, no?), a smartphone app can help in a pinch (though precise accuracy may vary, especially beyond 90 dB). Here are some top-rated Android apps to keep handy, as well as the official NIOSH iOS app:
Online Hearing Tests
There’s no substitute for an audiologist-performed hearing test. Online tests are quite primitive without offering critically important professional-grade testers and testing equipment, so steer clear from them aside from novelty purposes. An audiologist, however, will not only test things like L/R perception but confirm your test results using standardized benchmarks. Wouldn’t you want to know what frequencies you have been missing out on, or if your ears offer varying levels of sensitivity (and by how much)? Lastly, if you’ve suffered hearing loss, an audiologist can offer an action plan custom-tailored to your needs.
Earplugs / Ear Muffs
If you must be present in a loud environment for an extended period of time, formable plugs offer the best bang-for-the-buck protection by a wide margin. They’re inexpensive, work great, and can be bought in bulk to keep you prepared. The tip rollers here on Head-Fi should have no problem here, but getting a good seal is crucial to a formable earplug doing its job. Here’s a quick video on getting the best formable plug seal. If molded plugs are more your thing, here’s another helpful clip. Earplug benefits are obvious: a great seal in a lightweight, portable (and barely visible) form factor.
Ear muff-style protection (an aggressively closed headphone without the transducer) comes in a wide variety of shapes and brands. Many feature noise reduction ratings (NRR) tailored to applications (yard work, shooting, occupational, etc), however, there’s no such thing as too much protection. They’re clearly bulkier but non-intrusive if an in-ear fit is a concern (and can even be worn over earplugs!)
Hearing health is essential to longevity in the audiophile community. We hope you feel empowered to take control of your own hearing protection, as well as the confidence to use the resources available to demystify your current hearing health status.
What are some of your go-to hearing protection solutions? Please feel free to share recommendations, stories, pictures, and links!