Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to undermine the health of your hearing. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take a moment to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The standard rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a figure we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because it isn’t just the volume of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to think about using ear protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be damaging to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause instant damage and most likely pain to your ears.
You’ll want the ear protection you wear to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, particularly if you are exposed to those noises for any amount of time.
Find a Comfortable Fit
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).
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to think about. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best option for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people might appreciate the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (obviously, you won’t want to forget them for too long… you should take them out at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Find a Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is a significant factor. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to take them off for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. So the most crucial decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will stay healthier and happier if you find the right level of hearing protection for your circumstance.