A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken your hearing health. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to think about it. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a general rule of thumb. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in decibels (even though that’s how we calculate sound – it’s just not a figure we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s around 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are extremely important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to consider hearing protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will start to occur to your hearing if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing happens after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause immediate harm and most likely pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. The outside world will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
It’s really important that you select hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will usually make guidelines about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an essential component to take into consideration. It turns out, comfort is incredibly important to keeping your ears healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but most of your hearing protection decision will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other individuals might value the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a significant factor. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. So the most crucial decision you can make is to select hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.