Noise levels will be high around the San Francisco Bay this weekend. Fleet Week is here and with it the loud, loud sound of six F/A-18 Hornets flying overhead at Mach 1. It's something you can feel through your whole body, but it's your ears that are in the greatest danger.
Maximum decibel levels for spectators has been measured between 100 and 115dB, which is pretty darn high. While this level is still in the realm of the acceptable for short doses during fly-over, it is still incredibly loud. To make sure there is no damage to your short- and possibly long-term hearing at loud events like this, we have some hearing protection suggestions.
With noises in this range and above, it is possible to permanently damage your hearing. Luckily there are some inexpensive solutions that fit in your pocket and can be inserted in the ear canal quickly when you see them on the horizon.
My personal favorites are the Moldex Pura-Fit Foam Ear Plugs. They are rated NRR 33. The Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) are pretty easy to understand. The higher the number, the better the protection. Another popular choice for hearing protection are the Quiet QD1 Reusable Earplugs by Howard Leight. These don't provide the same level of protection of my Pura-Fits (NRR 26 vs. NRR 33) but they are very comfortable, easy to insert, and reusable.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a great noise meter on their site that demonstrates the levels of sound and the various exposure time limits before damage sets in. Jet engines are above an ambulance siren and just below a 12-gauge shotgun blast.
If you don't like squeezing ear plugs into your ear canal and then letting them slowly expand, the Howard Leight Leightning L3 Hi-Visibility Ear Muffs are a good choice, though ear muffs can get hot. And the L3s are stylish too, if you like inchworm green. They will fit easily in a backpack or big purse.
Of course the best you can do is doubling up on your ear protection. If you are worried about hearing loss, ear plugs in addition to ear muffs are going to provide just about all the hearing protection you are likely to get. Unless you stay home. And that's no fun.