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I was at a concert in a bad seat in 2010, right in front of giant speakers. By the end, I was hearing a very disturbing crackling in my ears.

 

This is what happens when your ears are being damaged, and afterwards, they will never be the same. Thankfully, that experience freaked me out enough that I sought hearing protection for over-loud situations.

Maybe you’ve done this thought experiment with your friends: Would you rather be blind or deaf? The real answer, of course, is neither.

 

Let’s Talk About Hearing

 

Hearing Damage is a Common (mostly preventable) Problem 

 

Hearing is unique in that it is at its peak when you are born and gets steadily worse until you die, and the only thing you can do is slow down or speed up the process of hearing loss.

Hearing loss from exposure to loud noises is very common, according to the National Institutes of Health:

“…at least 10 million adults (6 percent) in the U.S. under age 70—and perhaps as many as 40 million adults (24 percent)—have features of their hearing test that suggest hearing loss in one or both ears from exposure to loud noise. Researchers have also estimated that as many as 17 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have features of their hearing test suggestive of NIHL in one or both ears

A chain reaction is caused when over-loud sounds enter our ears. In short, there are hair cells deep in our ears that are a key part of the hearing process. Loud sounds kill those hair cells, causing our hearing to degrade, and they never grow back.

 

So What Causes Hearing Damage?

 

Sound is measured in decibels. Anything over 85 dB (decibels) causes permanent hearing damage.

Remember to protect your children’s ears. They cannot protect their own, so going to a live concert or being around fireworks with your kids is hurting them, irreparably.

Here’s a handy list of decibel levels of common sounds (courtesy of NIH, TinnitusTalk and USA Today):

Note: Anything over 85 dB (decibels) causes permanent hearing damage. The longer the exposure past 85 dB, the worse the damage.

  • 45 decibels – The humming of a refrigerator
  • 60 decibels – Normal conversation
  • 85 decibels – Noise from heavy city traffic
  • 90 decibels – Lawnmower
  • 95 decibels – Motorcyles
  • 100+ decibels – Marching band
  • 105 decibels – An MP3 player at maximum volume
  • 110 – 120 decibels – Very loud live music to VERY LOUD live music
  • 120 decibels – Sirens
  • 150 decibels – Firecrackers and firearms

This list makes the 4th of July in the United States sound very hazardous to our collective hearing. The parades I went to as a kid had tons of motorcycles and marching bands, and of course we used and viewed fireworks at the end of the day.

After I had kids, I already knew about the hazards of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and made sure to at least cover my kids’ ears tightly (not super effective but better than nothing) when the noise wasn’t planned for, and at best put some hearing protection earmuffs like these on them.

These days I tend to just avoid loud sound altogether, but next time I go to a concert or I am around fireworks, I would use some kind of earplugs for me and either leave the kids at home or buy some hearing protection earmuffs for the little kids. Once they get older, I would recommend getting some good earplugs for your kids, for loud planned events especially.

 

My Picks for Hearing Protection

 

 

For Live Music: Hearing Protection That Won’t Ruin the Show

 

For live music, there are special acoustic earplugs available that block some of the sound but are designed to not ruin the sound of the music. I got some of these years ago because I was working around very live loud music as well as going to concerts pretty frequently for recreation.

 


Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs for Concerts Musicians Motorcycles Noise Sensitivity Conditions and More (Ear Plugs Come in Premium Gift Box Packaging)

These (unfortunately named) acoustic earplugs are the highest-rated, most popular of their kind on Amazon. With a 16 – 21 decibel reduction rating, they should protect your hearing from damage of sounds up to 100 dB.

 

Disposable and Re-usable Earplugs For Maximum Protection

 


Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite High Visibility Disposable Foam Earplugs, 5-Pair Vending Pack (LL-5)

 

With 32 dB of noise reduction, these are the most effective hearing protection on the list. They should be effective for sounds as loud as 116 dB.

These are the disposable earplugs I used while working at a giant self-contained data-center with massive generators. These plugs are very good. Very soft and easy on your ears while being extremely moldable, which makes a great fit. A good seal is crucial for good hearing protection, and these work very well.

 

 SoundBarren Ear Plugs, 1 Reusable Pair, 28dB Hearing Protection Earplugs for Sleeping, Snoring, Shooting, Concerts, Musicians, and Travel

These are the highest-rated, most popular re-usable earplugs on Amazon.

Made with silicone and clear so they don’t attract attention, these earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 28 dB, so they should be good for sounds that go as high as 112 dB

 

Earmuff Hearing Protection For You and Your Kids

 


ClearArmor 141001 Shooters Hearing Protection Safety Ear Muffs Folding-Padded Head Band Ear Cups, Black

 

These have a 31 dB reduction rating, so they should work for sounds up to 115 dB. That’s super loud.

These may or may not fit your children if they are really young. I’ve used full-sized earmuffs like these on a baby, and while they worked, I had to keep checking to make sure they hadn’t moved out of place.

 


Snug Kids Earmuffs / Best Hearing Protectors – Adjustable Headband Ear Defenders For Children and Adults

 

These are supposed to work for kids as young as 6 months old all the way up to adult-sized heads.

They feature a 25 dB reduction rating so they should be good for sounds up to 109 dB. So next time you go to a parade or fireworks, pop these on your kids’ heads and save their little ears, at least until they start making bad decisions on their own.

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