Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. 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 begin damaging your ears. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how harmful 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 around 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
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 hearing protection. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours is considered harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to instant harm and most likely pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these volumes of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the volume 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 measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter your world will be (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another element to consider also: comfort. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually use your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. 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 remove them at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Find a Constant Degree of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major factor. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and scratchy, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the entire workday is the best solution.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.