Key Hearing Renton Washington
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Protect Your Hearing

We live in a noisy society, and many popular social activities involve noise. Sports events, live music, dancing, bars, gyms, outdoor events, or even movie theaters can produce high noise levels. Even at home and around the garden there are lots of potential noise hazards such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, power tools, or even hair dryers. Some of these noise sources exceed 100 dB which is considered dangerous, especially if the exposure is prolonged. The October issue of Physics Today had an article on sound levels in aerobics and other exercise classes in fitness clubs. The authors reported levels as high as 120 decibels!

There are solutions for all these situations, and the better you protect the hearing now, the better your chances are for avoiding expensive hearing aids later!

Enter the iPod

Potentially hazardous noise sources come in much smaller and better looking packages as well. The ubiquitous iPod carries a hidden danger to your hearing because the included ear buds deliver music directly into your ear canal, and combined with long-term exposure can lead to permanent hearing damage.

Customized Ear Bud Solutions

Custom iPod Ear Bud AdaptorsThe manufacturer supplied ear buds lack any kind of custom fit, which means they usually require some fiddling to get them into your ears, and if you are like me, they will often pop out anyway. This imperfect fit allows in outside noise, so your natural tendency is to raise the volume.

Snap your ear buds into customized ear bud adaptors and get the benefits of a custom fit along with the ability to get enhanced clarity, all while being able to reduce the volume needed to "hear" the sound to a safe level which is typically around 60%. You might also be amazed at how much the quality of the sound can be further improved by getting better sounding ear buds or noise-canceling ear buds. The noise-cancelling ear buds have the ability to block excess background noise. Either way you will be able to listen at lower volumes. Please try to keep your listening to under an hour at a time, because prolonged exposure to any noise, even at lower levels still has the potential to cause hearing damage.

Bluetooth Adaptors

For those of us with small ears or canals, the typical Bluetooth or hands-free system with our cell phone sits in the box.  With new laws coming into effect such as the one in Washington State beginning January 2008, cell phone use in the car can only be achieved through a hands-free system.  The adaptor is a custom molded piece your Bluetooth device attaches into.  Because it is custom molded to the ear you can expect a secure, comfortable fit.  The custom molding also may assist in better hearing as allows for better direction of the sound down the ear canal and into the ear.  Material may be either soft or hard and available in a variety of colors.

Generic Foam Plugs versus Customized Earplugs

Have you ever attended a live concert or sporting event where you left with your ears ringing a not so happy tune? In some cases this gift keeps on giving for days. This souvenir is called tinnitus and it is a form of hearing damage.

Some hearing protection is always better than none, so no matter what, foam earplugs beat using nothing. However, foam plugs seriously impact the clarity of the sound and block out all noise indiscriminately, so you'll frequently be removing them to talk to others. Standard, non-customized high-fidelity musician earplugs are a better option, and range between $10 - $25. These types of plugs last several months, or less if used heavily.

Custom Musician PlugsCustom plugs last for several years and are more comfortable by design. Custom musician ear plugs are the best way to protect your hearing at loud events. You can now enjoy a wide range of sound, but simply at safer levels. You can even hear what the person next to you is saying without having to remove the custom plugs thanks to innovative filters. At Key Hearing we create a custom ear mold impression and select the right filter for your hearing activities. These plugs last up to 5 years and typically run between $150 - $180.

Motorcycle Earplugs

Motorcycle earplugs are a canal shaped custom plug.  The inside is slightly hollowed to allow for better flex and thus comfort when a helmet is worn.  Attenuation value is similar to a standard custom plug.  Motorcycle plugs work well but do attenuate more of the high frequencies versus low as typical with standard earplugs. Therefore those riders who monitor their bike’s speed through the engine noise or do extensive riding in traffic may wish to consider musician plugs as an alternative.  

Sleep Plugs

Small discrete earplugs that are positioned in the canal portion of the ear. They are made from the softest silicone material to allow for a comfortable fit while sleeping while also offering a high attenuation value.

Shooter’s Plugs:

One of the top causes of hearing loss is noise exposure.  No firearm is safe for the ears.  Even one shot can do permanent damage to your hearing.  I don’t tell my patients to avoid firearms, just protect.  Firearm noise is different from steady state noise.  It is an impulse pattern.  Also firearm enthusiasts often wish to communicate or listen between shots.  Shooter’s plugs were developed to response to the impulse noise pattern.  Shooter's Plugs DO NOT NECESSARILY WORK FOR STEADY STATE NOISE SO DO NOT DOUBLE AS HEARING PROTECTION FOR THE WORKPLACE!  Shooter’s plugs come in both amplified and non-amplified options.

Non-amplified shooter’s plugs

Non-amplified shooter's plugs are similar to musician plugs as they involve a custom fit ear mold in both ears with a special filter.  Sonic II filters respond to impulse, however, in a higher fire environment such as a shooting range they have a lower attenuation value than the Hock’s noisebreakers.  Both are designed to have low or no blockage of sound when things are quiet, allowing a person to carry on a conversation, listen for game, etc.  The ESP Silencer is designed for higher noise levels such as trap shooting.

A common element in all is a good custom fit.  Ear mold impressions are not a do-it yourself procedure and at Key Hearing we verify the fit at your follow up appointment.   

Amplified Shooter’s Plugs

Amplified shooter’s plugs come in both custom or non-custom options.  As noted in this article http://www.buckmasters.com/BM/Default.aspx?tabid=61&EntryID=20 a custom adaptor can be made for many different devices such as the Buckmaster.  There are also in-the-ear type shooter’s plugs through ESP that provide amplification at softer levels but with an aggressive hearing aid circuit that compresses or “shut’s down” when impulse sounds are detected. 

Hidden Hazards of Power Tools

Power Tool Average Decibel Rating
(at Operator's Ear)
Power Drill 90 dB
Circular Saw 97 dB
Hair Dryer 95 dB
Leaf Blower 95 dB
Lawn Mower 90 dB

Noise levels of common power tools may surprise you, and you should need wear earplugs while operating these. This table shows the unhealthy volumes levels for many common appliances and tools. For noises over 85 dB, make sure you are wearing adequate hearing protection.