The New York Times has run several articles lately regarding long run health effects associated with hearing loss. The drift of them is that you sacrifice much more than just your hearing when you don't wear ear protection. Wearing walkman or iPod headphones is probably worse for you than not wearing headphones. The moral of the story is that if you also played football in high school you should probably double down on the ear protection lest people not think you've been doubling down on your cold medicine.
(Business and Management Forum)
From Contributor D:
I have significant hearing loss after a career in the shop. In my 20's, the shop I worked in (1972) had no hearing protection, and most of the shop hands were near deaf. They all insisted their hearing was better than it was before they worked in the shop. It turns out those old guys were all lip readers, and if you covered your mouth while speaking to them, they could not follow you. Even after I demonstrated this to them, they still said I was wrong. However, a lot of their energy/attention was devoted to determining what was being said, just as I do now. While I now have hearing aids, they are not perfect and they are uncomfortable and cumbersome. I cannot wear them in the shop at all. My hearing loss is in several ranges and the tinnitus is ever-present. Sounds like birds, but I cannot hear real birds much anymore.