Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hearing Protection Buyer's Guide

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Why Hearing Protection?
Every once in a while, you'll come across someone claiming that they don't "need" hearing protection. No matter their excuse they're simply wrong. Gun fire produces noise levels that peak between 140db and 170 db. That noise is made even more damaging at indoor ranges as the ears are exposed to the same noise multiple times as it echoes off of the walls, floor, and ceiling. The normal human threshold for pain is around 130db, and hearing loss can occur instantaneously at 120db. Even sounds as low as 78db can cause hearing loss over time.

Noise levels are measured in decibels, which we write "dB". A gun shot is rated at 149dB and, to compare, the typical office generally has a noise level of 60dB to 65dB. Noises louder than 80 decibels are dangerous and can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss. When we look at what hearing protection to buy, we need to pay close attention to the product's NRR, or Noise Reduction Rating, which is defined as the maximum number of decibels (dB) that the hearing protector will reduce the sound level when worn. By law, all hearing protection products have to have a NRR rating. The highest NRR rating you can get is 33 NRR. Products with a 28 to 31 NRR are recommended for indoor shooting. There are two different kinds of hearing protection, ear plugs and ear muffs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health actually recommends using both earplugs and earmuffs together when shooting. It might come as a surprise to hear that earplugs can actually offer more protection than ear muffs, because ear plugs fully block the ear canal.

Ear Plugs
There are quite a few different types of ear plugs: single use, multiple-use, banded and corded. An example of single-use ear plugs is 59730. Banded or corded ear plugs are best if you move between a noisy place and a non-noisy place, like between the shooting range and your range's lobby. Multiple-use earplugs, such as our corded reusable earplugs are easier to use because they do not require rolling to fit in your ear.

Earmuffs are either electronic or passive. Electronic earmuffs, like EAR-113 and 46160, amplify quieter sounds, allowing you to hear your range master's commands. These earmuffs will have integrated microphones and some have independent volume controls. Passive earmuffs simply block sound using foam and other materials located inside the ear cup. A good example is 46161. One thing to look for in your earmuffs is the style of band. Plastic headbands hold their shape better than a metal band. Metal bands can become stretched through time, leading them to decrease the level of protection. Other earmuffs offer added features such as 75027 which has a built-in am/fm radio, and EAR-111 that has a jack to plug in your iPod.

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