Tips on hearing protection: what to use and how
THE good news any hearing protection is good protection according to Independent Audiology Australia member, Grant Collins of Clarity Hearing Solutions.
"It doesn't matter how cheap it is,” Grant said. "You don't need to go out and spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on customised hearing protection which cut 50 decibels of noise.”
In the summer heat and when it is moist, there tends to be more bacteria and fungal pores in the air.
Any ear plug that is sold over the counter and you can roll up with your fingers, and then squish in your ear, will carry bacteria and fungus from your fingers. "Only use them once,” Grant recommends. "They really are designed for one use only.”
If you use a tapered edge ear plug, you may be able to use them more than once, but they should be sterilised with alcohol wipes or use a tissue that has been dipped into methylated spirits. "Be aware that because your using rubber and you are putting them in your ear, they are probably going to sweat and your ears are going to be wet,” Grant said.
After using ear muffs, clean your ears with aqua ear or similar drops which evaporate moisture or water in your ears. These products are readily available over the counter.
Customised-made plugs via audiologists
"An audiologist takes a mould of your ear and then provides plugs which are specifically made for your ears, and can be sterilised after each use,” Grant said.
"They can be a little more comfortable. If you have really narrow and bendy ear canals, and you find the standard ones don't fit in, then this can be a good option.”
Noise cancellation devices
There are two types - muffs which are available from the internet or any industrial safety store, and custom-made plugs.
"They work off similar technology to hearing aids,” Grant said. "They have little microphones on them which picks up the sound, and they create a soundwave 180 degrees out of phase and cancel out all the noise. But, you can still hear speech through them.”
These are good to use when using a mower for a long time, living near heavy traffic or an airport, or sleeping near a snorer or heavy breather.
If you are using equipment at 85 decibels for eight hours then every three decibels above that 85, you need to halve the amount of time you can safely spend in those noisy environments.
This level of noise is surprisingly not as loud as you think. It can be caused by vacuum cleaners, loud truck engines, even yelling and rustling paper loudly.
If you are in noise of less than 85 decibels, but in it for 12 or 14 hours, then you can still damage your hearing even though it's not at an unsafe level.