A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Your hearing health can be negatively impacted by even modest levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. 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 damage your ears is a basic rule of thumb. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s about 85 decibels. That’s not a big deal, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will start to occur to your ears if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing takes place after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any length of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and might even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the hearing protection you wear to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, especially if you are exposed to those noises for any amount of time.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter your world will be (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to take into consideration. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but the majority of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so earmuffs may be a better choice. Other people might appreciate the leave-them-in-and-forget-them strategy 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
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the full workday is the best choice.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.