3 Things That Can Mess With Your Hearing Protection

Woman construction worker putting on ear protection.

What prevents your hearing protection from working properly? Here are 3 things to watch for.

Despite your best efforts, you can sometimes run into things that can mess with your hearing protection, both at home and at the job. And that can be frustrating. After all, you’re trying to do what you’re supposed to do! You wear your earmuffs every day at work; you wear earplugs when you go to a show; and you avoid your loud Uncle Henry who is always shouting in your ears (although, maybe you just don’t really like Uncle Henry).

The point is, it can be kind of frustrating when you’re doing everything right and still there are challenges. The nice thing is that once you know about a few of these simple issues that can mess with your hearing protection, you can better prepare yourself. And that can ensure that your hearing protection works at peak efficiency even when there’s a bump in the road.

1. Wearing the wrong type of hearing protection

There are two handy and basic categories of hearing protection: earplugs and earmuffs. As the names might imply, earplugs are small and can be inserted directly into the ear canal. Earmuffs are like big headphones with no music (instead, they, you know, protect your ears).

  • Earplugs are recommended when you’re in an environment where the sound is relatively constant.
  • Earmuffs are recommended in cases where loud sounds are more intermittent.

The reasons for that are pretty simple: you’ll want to remove your hearing protection when it’s quiet, and that’s easier to do with earmuffs than earplugs. Earplugs are incredibly easy to lose (especially if they’re cheap and disposable anyway), so you don’t want to be in a situation where you remove an earplug, lose it, and then need it later.

Wear the right kind of hearing protection in the right situation and you should be okay.

2. Your anatomy can affect your hearing protection

Human anatomy is incredibly varied. That’s why your Uncle Henry has such large vocal cords and you have more normal-sized vocal cords. It’s also why your ear canal may be smaller than the average person’s.

And that can mess with your hearing protection. Disposable earplugs, for example, are made with a t-shirt mentality: small, medium, and large (if not one-size-fits-all). And so if you have particularly tiny ear canals, you might have a hard time getting those earplugs to fit, causing you to give up completely and throw the earplugs away in frustration.

This can leave you exposed to risk, undercutting the hearing protection you were trying to provide for yourself. The same thing can happen if, for example, your ears are on the larger size, making earmuff style protectors uncomfortable. If you spend a lot of time in noisy environments, it might be worth investing in custom hearing protection tailored to your ears.

3. Examine your hearing protection for wear and tear

If you’re using your hearing protection every day, you should give yourself a gold star (or, maybe a gold concerto? Something you can hear, is what I’m getting at). But that also means you need to keep an eye on the wear and tear your hearing protection is experiencing.

  • Check the band on earmuff protection. When the elastic is worn out and the band no longer holding the earmuffs snug, it’s time to replace the band.
  • Replace cushions on earmuffs every once in a while (typically, when those cushions are no longer pliable, they’re ready for the heave-ho).
  • Wash your dang hearing protection. Ears aren’t exactly the cleanest part of your body (ear wax serves a good purpose and all, but it’s still kind of… gross). Just make sure that you wash properly; if you’re washing an earmuff set, take the ear muffs apart. If you’re washing earplugs, don’t drop them down the drain.

Ensuring you perform regular maintenance on your hearing protection is vital if you want to continue benefiting from that protection. If you have any questions or how to do that–or how to ensure you’re prepared for things that can mess with your hearing protection–it’s a good idea to have a candid conversation with a highly qualified hearing professional.

Your hearing is important. It’s worth taking the time to protect it right.


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