With all the recent talk about what should or shouldn’t be common-sense these days, protecting your hearing with SureFire EarPro earplugs is basic common sense that everyone should take seriously.
Hearing loss due to noise exposure is entirely preventable, and yet more than 26 million Americans suffer a medical condition known as Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). If you spend a lot of time at the range or work near machinery without wearing proper hearing protection, you may be one of them. NIHL is the number one disability claim filed annually against companies.
Without proper ear protection, you could be punishing your ears with around 100 decibels (dB) of harmful noise every time you pull your weapon’s trigger, or spend all-day near noise of substantially less dB. The concussive energy shocks the eardrum, damaging the tiny hair-like structures that convert energy into electrical impulses that the brain perceives as sound. While most people are aware of the impact on their hearing when not wearing ear protection at the range, they may be less aware of the long-term damage that constant noise can cause. Constant noise is prevalent in many industrial or agricultural businesses. It can be generated by machinery of all shapes and sizes. The bottom line here is that repeated exposure to any sound above 85 dB can still result in permanent hearing loss — and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
But here’s the thing: We can tell you how SureFire EarPro® earplugs are the most innovative in-ear mechanical hearing protection you can buy, how they’re designed by an audiologist and employ superior technology, and how EarPro every model is constructed of durable, soft hypoallergenic polymer that provides all-day comfort, making them ideal for extended use. But, if you don’t know how to choose which model suits your needs, you may be hesitant to enjoy all that SureFire’s high-quality EarPro has to offer.
How do you choose which EarPro model is best for you? A couple of ways. First, you need to consider what you need hearing protection for, keeping the following three factors in mind:
NIHL happens when you are exposed to loud sounds. These sounds might be long duration, such as industrial noise during a factory work shift, or a loud concert, or short duration, such as the sound of a gun. Distance and duration have a tremendous impact on your exposure to these sounds, but constant noise at or above 120 dB, or impulse noise at or above 140 dB is widely considered to be unsafe for any duration. The World Health Organization’s published standards for Safe Listening Devices and Systems, warns that safe listening time goes down by half for every 3-dB increase in sound. For example, an 86-dB sound can be safely heard for 10 hours per week, but an 89-dB sound can only be safely heard for 5 hours per week. Exposure to 100-dB sounds should be limited to just 18.75 minutes per week.
The good news is that every SureFire EarPro model works in a variety of conditions while effectively blocking harmful noise from entering the ear canal. The most economical SureFire EarPro Sonic Defenders deliver a minimum 24-decibel Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with their filter caps in the closed position, while SureFire’s EP10 Full-Block EarPro provides an NRR of 30dB, making it ideal for such extreme sounds a rock concert or jackhammer. In case you don’t know, NRR is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment; the higher the NRR number associated with a hearing protector, the greater the potential for noise reduction.
While every SureFire EarPro model is proven to substantially reduce harmful noise, you have options when it comes to choosing the model that suits your needs. SureFire produces two versions of its Sonic Defenders® EarPro: Full-Block and Filtered. Knowing which one you need is a simple matter of understanding what differentiates them from each other.
Full-Block Sonic Defenders are ideal for industrial, tactical, and everyday applications where you want maximum protection against continual noise levels but don’t necessarily need to hear ambient sounds or conversations. Their full-block design eliminates the filter, providing maximum protection and all-day comfort, even when worn with a mask, helmet, or other supplemental safety equipment. This is the style of protection with which most earplug wearers will be familiar, and it excels in high-noise conditions such as at shooting ranges or anywhere you’d encounter loud construction or factory production machinery. SureFire’s EP5 and EP10 Sonic Defenders are Full-Block models.
However, filtered Sonic Defenders are the better choice if maintaining communication in high-noise environments is crucial. While their NRR isn’t as high as Full-Block Sonic Defenders, their proprietary filter design attenuates dangerous noise while still allowing lower-level safe sounds to pass through into the ear canal for clear communication. In other words, you can speak normally to your friends or co-workers without removing your hearing protection, but it will still be ready to protect you if loud noises should suddenly occur. Filtered Sonic Defenders also feature attached filter stopper plugs that can be inserted into the filter to achieve an even higher Noise Reduction Rating. SureFire EP3, EP4, EP7, EP8, and EP11 models are filtered Sonic Defender models.
Beyond choosing between Full-Block or Filtered EarPro, you can also choose between two different stem types. Both the Filtered and Full-Block styles are available in flanged or foam-tip stem styles.
Flanged stems are easier to clean, generally longer-lasting, and they are recommended for use in water, so they’re an excellent way to keep water out of the ear when you’re swimming, surfing, or engaging in other watersports. SureFire’s flanged stems are also ergonomically designed to follow the natural curve of the ear canal for all-day comfort with no hot spots. While triple-flange models (EP4, EP5) offer greater NRR than double-flange models, don’t discount SureFire’s double-flange EP3 models. If you have shallow ear canals, you may find the double-flange EarPro models are more comfortable for you.
The Comply® Canal Foam Tip stems on SureFire EP7 and EP10 Sonic Defenders provide excellent comfort when worn for extended periods, and they deliver the highest NRR. They’re a far cry from cheap, disposable foam earplugs, which are both ineffective and harmful to the environment. All SureFire EarPro models are reusable, which drastically reduces their ecological footprint. They are also not designed for use in water, and greater care must be taken when cleaning so as to not damage the foam tips and compromise their ability to protect your hearing. SureFire offers replacement tips for these models.
The downloadable SureFire EarPro Flow Chart below will help you make the most informed choice, but here are a couple more points to ponder. First, there are color options for various EarPro models. EP3 and EP7 are available in Black or Clear. EP5 is available in Black or Orange. EP4 and EP10 are available in Black, Clear, or Orange. If you want to wear EarPro without necessarily looking like you’re wearing ear protection, Clear is the least conspicuous, while Orange is a sure sign that you’re wearing ear protection. The latter is also the easiest to spot in a backpack or gear bag.
Lastly, SureFire research and customer feedback have shown that Medium is the preferred size for most customers. You can determine your size by measuring the concha bowl of the ear from top to bottom. If the measurement is less than 1 inch, select Small. If it is 1 inch, select Medium. If it is greater than 1 inch, select Large.
Whichever model or size you choose, you’ll be making a smart move by preserving your hearing over the long haul. For more information on SureFire EarPro Sonic Defenders, CLICK HERE.