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According to the National Institutes of Health, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) impacts 26 million people of every age in the U.S.. NIHL is brought on by exposure to dangerous sound levels of 85 decibels (dB) or higher, and may be either permanent or temporary. The variety sounds that may result in NIHL range from common city traffic at about 85 decibels to motorcycles, firecrackers and firearms that may exceed 120 dB. Luckily, there are numerous styles of hearing protection products available at your local hardware or sports store to match the diverse sound levels in a variety of conditions.

The hearing protection scale

In the United states, all devices are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for assessing the amount of protection they offer the wearer. The rating range from 0 to 33 decibels with the larger rating offering greater hearing protection.

Comparing Earmuffs and Earplugs

Electronic earplugs

Electronic earplugs are placed just inside the ear and provide variable protection, meaning the level of protection raises or lowers based on external noises. They can adjust very quickly to shield the wearer against unexpected loud noises like a crash from a cymbal or an exploding firework. Some types of plugs can even help you hear better by letting lower decibel sounds such as people speaking to pass through clearly while at the same time blocking the louder sounds. These are extremely useful for hunting and at construction or industrial sites where loud sounds are frequent, but you still need to be able to hear directions.

Electronic earmuffs

Electronic earmuffs are designed to cup the full outer ear with a cushiony insulating material, and, though they look just like regular earmuffs, they are very different. Other types include a built-in radio system to allow for communication between individuals operating in hazardous environments. You can even find earmuffs that allow you to listen to the radio while you’re in a noisy place, which is nice when mowing the lawn or blowing leaves.