I definitely have lost hearing capacity over 35 years in the shop, and it hurts (although it can provide a plausible excuse for ignoring some unwanted messages). I blame myself for using NR23 earbands for a number of years instead of higher rated headphones. On the other hand, I always knew where they were. Now that it is too late I work in a small shop and use the headphones 95% of the time. Take heed, young ones!
As in the military situations in the linked article, situational awareness from hearing is important in the woodshop. I rely on changes in machine noises to know when something is not right. One of my pet peeves was a coworker who used music enabled headphones that tuned him out from what was going on around him. I understand there are phones that amplify conversation while suppressing machine noise- could be a good thing if it works.
The New York Times ran a series of articles a while back about the effects of hearing loss on early-onset dementia. They likened it to the effect of CTE injuries that show up from head injuries in professional athletes. Concussive injuries can start as early as PeeWee football and have accumulative effects over time.
Hearing loss causes the alzheimer effect because when you can't hear clearly your brain has to use all of it's RAM to assemble sounds into words and your brain goes into overload.
The causal relationships are still being sorted out. It could well be that symptoms ascribed to other causes could one day be pinpointed to hearing loss.
I am curious about the effects that high frequency router motors have on the brain. It doesn't have the same percussion of an more explosive sound but is nonetheless still uncomfortably noticeable (until it isn't).
I have a pair of custom fit silicone earplugs. They take the edge off just like foam earplugs but are super comfortable. I wear them all day and forget that they are there. After a few years of using them I'm at the point where I can't even use an impact driver without them.
I'm a solo woodworking so I don't know how they are with big machines or a very loud shop but they work for me when I'm standing in front of my table saw/jointer/planer all day. They reduce noise by 30 decibels.
I recommend them. I got mine at Costco hearing aid centre.
I also have significant hearing loss. When in my 20's (now 65), I worked in an old style shop where there was no hearing protection. The old guys said their hearing was sharper than their wives - the noise helped them hear better!
I was already experiencing tinnitus, so I explored this a bit further. At lunch, if I spoke to one of the old guys with my hand over my mouth, he asked me to repeat myself. This happened many times. If I spoke without my hand - he could see my mouth - he understood for the most part. They were unconscious lip readers, and damn good at it.
Of course, almost all the conversation consisted of "them damn kids...." or "them damn politicians...." and had been repeated 3,000 times around that table, so understanding or real conversation was not paramount.
In the shop, things were taught by observation and copying. Language had been replaced for the most part.
I do not hear well in noisy restaurants or noisy places. I cannot understand children well, with high pitched voices. And music is not what it once was. People that know me learn to speak more loudly, but even then I miss things. Why I love e-mail.....
I now have hearing aids that help replace the frequencies blown out by a Northfield 16" jointer with jointed knives, and a Powermatic planer with similar jointed knives. They do not make it normal by any means, and I still miss things. Jointing the knives on the fly is handy, but it will get much louder very easily.
In a larger shop, the insurance company required a baseline hearing test on all employees and annual check ups. If there was a shift, we had to upgrade the protection for that individual, even if the loss was caused by loud music or shooting in their time off, as claimed by the employee.
If I was young, with hearing intact, I would get a baseline hearing test, and go back every few years. If your ears ring, they will only get worse. Wear good protection more frequently than you think you need to.
Pat - You heard wrong. We all seem to have that problem.....
Hearing loss is instantaneous, though often incremental. A small loss every day, or every week will add up for those of us exposed over years. If your ears ring 12 hours after the cause, they will ring forever. There is no fix for that, though hearing aids can mask it effectively.
I couldn't agree more, I require the shop guys to wear earmuffs all day every day.
I know quite a few older guys that tell the same story as David does. I remember being young in the construction field and running a gas cutoff saw without earmuffs on- big mistake. That only happened once...
Speaking of ears ringing..I once used a concrete cutting saw for an hour or two without hearing protection. I was warned but didn't listen as I was 23. My right ear rang for two months but finally went away. Seems fine now.
Does anyone have any experience with electronic ear protection from companies like Eytomotic, Sound Gear, Pro ears, ect? I have looked into them and would gladly spend the money on them, if I knew they worked.
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