Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can start to undermine your hearing health. That’s why it’s really smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take some time to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin harming your ears. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we calculate sound – it’s just not 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. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes 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 the duration of exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be harmful to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour is considered harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and may even cause immediate pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. Outside sound will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an essential component to think about. It turns out, comfort is incredibly significant to keeping your ears healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but most of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are irritating, so earmuffs may be a better choice. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is a major factor. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. So the most important decision you can make is to pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you choose the correct level of hearing protection for your circumstance.