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Protect Your Ears

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#1
Johnny D

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A licensed audiologist on the basics of hearing protection

 

We probably don’t need to explain that race cars are loud. While the volume and intensity may vary, most race cars – even Touring and Spec Miata class cars – are loud enough to hurt your ears. And you may not even know it’s happening.

 

“Hearing loss is painless, happens slowly over a long period of time, and becomes a permanent type of damage to the sensory cells within the inner workings of your ear,” says L. Dawn Flinn, a licensed and certified audiologist and principal of earEVERYTHING, Inc., a company that specializes in hearing protection. “It is also 100 percent preventable if we educate ourselves on the available products designed to protect us. Hearing loss does not have to be an inevitable affliction for every motorsport fan or employee. Be that as it may, you only get one chance to save your sense of hearing.”

 

It goes beyond long-term hearing loss. You may not realize the effects of consistent exposure to loud noises for years, and then it’s too late. But the short-term affects can be immediate, even if you don’t realize that they’re happening, or the cause.

 

“Loud noises are disorienting and fatiguing. It changes your heart rate and it changes your respiration. If we just pay attention to this aspect, it can help the drivers go faster. It can help the crew guys be more organized and synchronized in their pit stops. It’s all for quality of life at the end of your motorsports career,” Flinn says.

 

Using the proper hearing protection products not only can protect you from the harmful effects of exposure to loud noises, it can also help you do your job at the track better. Communication is key, in the car and out, so being able to clearly hear what someone is telling you can be critical.

 

“The drivers schools will tell you which helmet to buy, what gloves to get and tell you what fire suit you need; but no one talks about your hearing and your communication,” Flinn explains. “Even if the hearing protection was simply a byproduct of improving the communication aspect…I don’t know that the driver necessarily cares that he is saving his hearing. He wants to hear the radio, he needs to hear what the crew chief or race control is saying to him.”

 

In a later article on hearing protection, we’ll talk about some specific ways to protect hearing and make communication at the track or other loud environment easier.


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#2
Johnny D

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Protect Your Hearing

 

Earbuds-400x244.jpg

 

There are a variety of hearing protection products on the market, but the custom-molded solution provides the best combination of comfort and protection

 

You know the dangers of not protecting your hearing. You also know the benefits to your job at the racetrack of doing so. The question remaining to be answered is, “What is the best way to protect one’s hearing?” The answer, as it almost always is, “It depends.”

 

Do you need to listen to a radio? Do you need to hear people speak? Do you just need to shut out the noise? One’s individual needs dictate the level of hearing protection required.

 

Hearing protection ranges from the basic foam earplugs to custom-molded passive hearing protection or earbuds. Like everything else, you get what you pay for.

 

“There is no substitute for products that are crafted using an actual mold of an individual’s ear,” says L. Dawn Flinn, a licensed audiologist and principal at earEVERYTHING, Inc, a supplier of hearing protection equipment and, as one might suspect, custom-molded hearing protection solutions. “If having a custom-made product is not an option, there are plenty of over-the-counter choices that can help. The wonderful thing about a customized product is it fits the same way every time, assuring you the same level of protection with every use.”

 

Flinn says the foam ear plugs and one-size-fits-all silicone solutions are better than nothing, but notes that many people don’t insert them properly and, after all, whose ear canals are perfectly cylindrical?

 

A bigger issue, perhaps, is the fact that such hearing protection – even custom-molded solutions – may provide more protection than you need. Yes, they block the loud noises, but they block the sounds you may need to hear as well.

 

“You can’t have effective communication in the presence of noise without effective hearing protection. We have passive hearing protectors with filters in them that allow you to hear speech and the tone of the engine and the tools that you’re using. When you’re using an air gun, if there’s something not right with the air gun, you have to hear it,” she says.

 

The same thing is true with radios. More than just an earbud, a custom-molded solution better blocks out outside noise. Otherwise it is very possible that a driver or crewman will have to turn the volume so loud that it will actually damage their hearing more than the race car noise.

 

“If I create an earpiece for you and it creates a seal separating the sound on the outside from what you’re trying to listen to on the inside, you don’t require a ton of volume. If you are using your volume control to overpower ambient sound, you run the risk of listening at even higher volumes than the race cars. This will cause the same type of hearing damage you were trying to avoid in the first place,” she says.

 

Naturally, Flinn believes she takes a really good ear impression after what she estimates are 15 or 16,000 of them. But while Flinn operates out of Indianapolis and travels to many IndyCar and IMSA races, getting her to do an impression of your ear isn’t always a possibility, so she mentions that it’s also effective to have another audiologist take a mold of your ear and have it sent to earEVERYTHING to create the hearing protection product. Either way, Flinn is a strong believer in the custom-molded solution, believing that it provides superior hearing protection and easy fit.


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#3
Danica Davison

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Nah, I'll pass. I would rather not being able to hear my nagging future wife when I am 70 years old


John Davison
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#4
Johnny D

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You'll find you can tune the kids crying, wife yelling out with proper training, it come natural for some. :)

 

J~


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#5
Mitch Reading

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I have custom molded ear buds from Dawn. Highly recommend!
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#6
Cnj

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I work in an industry (entertainment) where protecting my hearing has been critical to my financial success. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the issue. There are no second chances with hearing damage. Lose it once, lose it forever. It’s not a bone that heals. I’ve got lots of friends who have paid the price and now walk around with ringing 24/7 or hearing aids. It’s not pretty. Studies show that hearing loss is one of the leading causes of depression as people get older (sense of isolation and disconnection from others). Don’t screw with this stuff. Seriously.

There a many good solutions to hearing protection. I now race with a Stilo with ear muffs which reduce the level decently. I have often run with Bose noise canceling earphones which are very effective. I’ve also got professional ear molds. I always carry a set of Dubs which are cheap (about $25) and drop the level broad band and I’ve sometimes used Etymotics (there are a wide range). If I were to race a car louder than a SM I would double up on the protection that my Stilo offers.

Generally the foam ear pieces are pretty lame, but are better then nothing. You can also use swimming ear wax which molds to your ear well.

CNJ
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#7
FTodaro

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Nah, I'll pass. I would rather not being able to hear my nagging future wife when I am 70 years old

Its not the hearing loss that bothers me. its the constant ringing in my ears 24/7


Frank
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#8
Johnny D

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Tinnitus
https://en.m.wikiped...g/wiki/Tinnitus

J~
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