Like many people, patients with Hyperacusis often have not had the best practices of ear protection to prevent ear damage from excessively loud noises. Typically, industrial workers have been trained to follow the OSHA Guidelines for noise exposure which states the following: “all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss.” The site describes the time weighted impact of noise levels as well in the following example: “OSHA allows 8 hours of exposure to 90 dBA but only 2 hours of exposure to 100 dBA sound levels. NIOSH would recommend limiting the 8 hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 dBA, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.” For examples of noise levels see the CDC Noise Meter. While the OSHA site highlights the risk to Tinnitus as well as Hearing Loss from excessive noise exposure, it does not refer the risk of Hyperacusis which is also frequently induced by loud noise exposures.
Most importantly, some Hyperacusis patients feel safer by protecting themselves well below the OSHA levels to ensure there are no additional setbacks from a new noise exposure. Some Audiologist have expressed a concern that “overprotecting” can create other challenges. However, there are various opinions on how to achieve the safest environment for Hyperacusis patients. Some patients have shared that they suffered a setback from new loud noise exposures at levels that would not affect the average person. This challenge is obviously an important area where researchers could help clarify the real risk level based on the severity level of Hyperacusis.
For the situations where you choose ear protection, some of the highest level of ear protection products are listed below. For ear plug protection, HEREOS offers both 32dB and 33dB levels of protection. Remember that since dB sound level is rated on a log scale, the sound intensity level multiplies by 10 with every 10dB increase (so 95dB is 10 times louder than 85dB). For ear muff protection, the Bilsom Thunder T3 Ear Muffs are rated at 30dB. You may choose over the ear protection to also reduce some of the bone conduction sounds waves not blocked by ear plugs.