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According to the National Institutes of Health, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) impacts 26 million people of all ages in the United States. Noise-induced hearing loss is a temporary or permanent decrease in hearing ability brought on by exposure to a dangerous sound level (anything more than 85 decibels (dB)). For reference, regular exposure to heavy traffic in the city may reach this decibel level, while motorcycles, firearms and fireworks all record decibel levels above 120. Fortunately, there are many hearing protection devices are available for sale at sporting goods and hardware stores that can preserve your hearing in these circumstances.

A noise reduction rating system

In the US, all products are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on a standard system for measuring the amount of protection they give the wearer. The system assigns ratings from 0 dB to 33 dB, with the higher numbers indicating a higher level of protection.

Earplugs or Earmuffs

Electronic earmuffs may resemble regular earmuffs, with soft padding that covers the entire ear, but they are really extremely different. Certain models are better suited to unexpected and intermittent loud noises, such as gunfire. Others offer walky-talky style communication for individuals doing work in hazardously loud environments. And others include AM/FM radio reception, which can provide a bit of entertainment while you’re doing loud work around the yard.

Electronic earplugs are inserted inside the ear and provide variable protection, which means the level of protection raises or lowers depending upon external noises. Additionally, they react and adjust to muffle sudden noises, such as a shot from a gun or the crash from a cymbal. Some varieties of electronic earplugs can allow lower-decibel sounds including speech to pass while at the same time blocking dangerous noises. These are particularly useful for hunting and at construction or industrial sites where loud noises are frequent, but you still need to be able to hear directions.