Websites, media and other sources say use ear protection if you’re in damaging high level environmental noise whether that’s mowing the lawn, going to a concert or stadium event or doing some hunting or shooting. This couldn’t be more general or vague. It depends on if you need to hear in noise. Do you want to enjoy music clearly? Do you want to talk more easily? Do you need to hear prey, predators or hunting partners? If yes, you need high fidelity hearing protection.
Regular ear protection is fine if you don’t have to listen to anything or talk to anyone; for example, using a loud blower for yard leaves or using power tools for a woodworking project. Regular earmuffs. Foam earplugs. Cut as much noise as possible.
If you want to hear music or have conversations then regular muffs and all foam plugs only distort the sound. Nobody wants to hear distorted music, especially if you’ve paid for concert tickets or to get in to a nightclub. Nobody wants to strain to understand conversations or strain their voice loudly talking back and forth while enjoying a sports game, monster truck show or MMA fight. Nobody wants to go out hunting and not be able to hear what they need to in their environment.
Modern Hearing Protection
The answer is modern high def or high fidelity ear protection. This type of protection cuts hazardous noise but lets safe sound through. Instead of distorting music or speech, it turns down the volume. Keeping music quality clear and speech easy to hear. Specific ear protection designed for hunting rifle or shotgun impact noise is for sale.
- High fidelity or filtered earmuffs
- High fidelity or filtered pre-molded earplugs
- Musician’s pre-molded and custom molded earplugs
- Electronic hi def or musician’s earmuffs and earplugs.
- Earmuffs with safe built-in amplification for people with hearing loss
- Shooting ear protection designed for high impact gunfire noise.
- Motorsports ear protection with built-in communication systems as needed
There are a lot of manufacturers offering these products. They range in cost from lowest with pre-molded earplugs to highest for electronic ear protection. Products with a battery may stop working when using if the battery dies, so that is one thing to consider when choosing. For earplugs, custom musician’s type earplugs from audiologists fit well especially for people who can’t get a good fit with pre-molded products.
Here are some sources and reviews for different types of hearing protection:
Safety Supply Stores (good prices and good selection of hi def earmuffs/earplugs)
Hearing Health Clinic e.g. custom fit by Audiologist or hearing healthcare professional
ShootingandSafety.com Best Ear Protection For Shooting
Etymotic High Fidelity/Hi Def Hearing Protection
Sonicbids.com Best Musician’s Earplugs
Etymotic Custom Molded Musician’s Earplugs**
Earmufs.com Best Electronic Earmuffs++
HeadphonesCompared Best Electronic Earplugs**++
For more detailed musician’s hearing protection resources: www.musiciansclinics.com
Note: Active Noise Cancellation is for low to moderate not hazardous steady background noise or hum of activity e.g. travelling by airplane, transit, office noise.
Review: The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones
**Any ear impressions must be done by an audiologist or hearing health professional. Never get ear protection from a manufacturer offering DIY ear impression kits.
++Look for products that meet regulatory standards or have been independently verified. Otherwise you don’t know if they work to cut noise safely as claimed.
I don’t recommend or endorse any product. But in my opinion, Etymotics is to High Fidelity Hearing Protection what Bose is to High Fidelity Audio Sound Quality.
Well Fit Hearing Protection
What happens if you don’t protect your ears while enjoying that concert or football game at the stadium? At first the damage is permanent. Frayed hearing nerve fibers. Hidden. Invisible. Painless. Maybe some temporary hearing loss for a day or two after. Maybe some temporary ringing in the ears (tinnitus). But every time you’re in noise with no ear protection, the damage just keeps getting worse. Turning your high fidelity hearing sound system into a crappy low fidelity hearing sound system with distortion, static and missing parts. Your favourite music won’t sound so good after all. Unfortunately by the time you notice, it will be too late.
Always make sure to use properly fitting hearing protection every time you need to protect your hearing. Keep your hearing system high fidelity by avoiding noise damage to hearing health and communication.
Jan L. MayesMSc, Aud(C), RAud
Author, audiologist, educator, quiet activist, playing with words.