table saw guyWe woodworkers are a bold crew. We move things we shouldn’t. We put our fingers in harms’ way on a regular basis. We put up with sawdust. All for the love of the art and craft of carpentry. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Something we put at risk, though, that we really shouldn’t, are our ears. What sort of damage are we doing and what can we do about it?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that around 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss and nearly 16% of our teens report some level of noise-induced damage. Much of this can be avoided by regular use of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) approved hearing protection devices. In addition to hearing loss, many of us who have had a lot of noise exposure suffer from tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

There are several different types of hearing protection. You can buy foam or wax plugs, which are used a few times and disposed of. You can look at more durable soft plastic plugs which are inserted into the ear canal. Many of us, though, prefer the “Mickey Mouse” style hearing protection, which covers your ear with an insulated cup, joined with a flexible band over the head.

It is time to take advantage of one of these simple, inexpensive ways to protect your vital hearing while pursuing your passion as a woodworker. After all, you want to be able to hear all the praise your friends and family give you as they admire your work.