It’s a noisy world out there, that’s no surprise. What you may not know, though, is that exposure to sounds you might think of as moderate may be enough to damage your hearing over time. Hearing loss ranks as the third-most common chronic condition in the United States, behind only high blood pressure and arthritis. It’s thought that about 22 million workers experience dangerous noise levels each year on the job.

However, your ears don’t distinguish between the sound of factory equipment and concert-level music from your favorite band. Regardless of the source, when sound levels reach 85 decibels (dB) or greater, your hearing could be subject to harm. Noise isn’t the only threat to your ears either. Keeping water out is a priority for some.

Hearing and ear protection take several forms, from disposable earplugs to over-the-ear personal protective equipment. Your ultimate solution, though, may be custom-fitted ear plugs, starting with a visit to Professional Hearing Aid Service. Here are some reasons why you may want to consider them.

The drawbacks of disposable ear plugs

Disposable ear plugs are one-size-fits-all solutions offered up affordably at your local pharmacy. In a pinch, these may do well if your ears are an average size. Foam noise abatement plugs compress for insertion and expand to fill your ear canal. If these are a good fit for your ear canal, you’ll have a blocked sensation in your ears because, well, they’re blocked.

The problem is, you won’t hear upper and middle frequencies well, those most necessary to communicate, due to the physics of sound and the physiology of hearing. And if the foam plugs are too big or too small, they may feel uncomfortable or they might not offer adequate noise protection.

Despite the feeling that your ears are full, foam ear plugs won’t help you underwater. For those situations, you need wax ear plugs that you can shape and fit into your ear canals. If you shape them well, they’ll keep water out, but as a single-use product, each time you use a new pair, there’s a risk of shaping failure.

The benefits of custom ear plugs

Though the initial expense of custom ear plugs seems substantial, they have an expected lifespan of three to five years. That’s enough to see long-term cost savings over disposable designs. Custom plugs start with a mold of your ears, so you’re guaranteed a perfect fit.

You can choose the features of your ear plugs since they’re custom-made for your needs. Not only can you pick the level of sound attenuation to match your needs, there are also ear plugs designed for specific purposes.

Musicians, for example, deal with loud environments over extended amounts of time. However, they must still hear clearly across a natural range of frequencies. Musicians’ ear plugs reduce the level of all frequencies evenly, so a safe level remains understandable. Ear plugs for hunters handle the loud, sudden transients of gunshots, which can be louder than jet engines. Earplugs for swimmers block water well, with a fit that’s consistent every time.