Protecting your hearing is vital. Unlike your eyesight, hearing loss is permanent unless there’s a clearly defined temporary cause, like an earwax buildup or ear infection. If you suffer natural or noise-induced hearing loss, you can’t get it back naturally. Besides treating hearing loss and providing solutions like hearing aids, your audiologist can teach you how to prevent it. Hearing protection, like earmuffs and earplugs, are highly effective tools for just that. Here are some of the ways they help prevent hearing loss.

Protection from continuous noise

Occupations that involve machinery or vehicles, projects requiring power tools and outdoor chores like mowing and leaf blowing cause continuous noise exposure. The impact of a loud environment might not be immediate, but exposure to that level of noise over weeks, months and years, can damage hearing. In most work environments where loud noise is an ongoing factor, wearing hearing protection is likely to be mandatory. Noise-cancellation headphones, which are worn over the ears, are the most common form of protection available in such environments, and work by dulling the level of noise so that it doesn’t fully penetrate the ear.

Protection from a sudden, intense noise

One extremely loud noise can be just as dangerous as constant exposure to unsafe sounds. The damage to your hearing can be immediate and can even cause tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. From the shooting range to a firework show, if you know that you’re going to be at risk of exposing yourself to sudden loud noises, earplugs are a great option. Disposable earplugs are relatively cheap and provide highly effective protection. Small as they are, they can muffle most loud noise. Just make sure that you dispose of them after. Most disposable earplugs are made of foam, which is comfortable and easy-to-use, but can also trap in dirt and germs after being worn so they shouldn’t be reused.

Protection from the elements

Noise isn’t the only thing that can put your hearing in danger. The wind, cold weather and snow can irritate the inner ear. What’s more, continuous exposure to water can lead to ear infections that could cause permanent damage to your hearing. Whether you work outdoors in the elements often or you love to surf, swim or snowboard, you should consider customized earplugs. They are slightly more expensive than the disposable variety, but can last from three to five years with proper care. Besides the noise protection, they stop unwanted elements from getting into the ear and are molded to fit your ears perfectly so they will stay in. If you’re regularly in an environment that exposes you to excessive levels of noise, make an appointment with your audiologist. They can offer advice on how to protect your hearing, including recommending the hearing protection you should be wearing.