Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can start to weaken the health of your hearing. This is why 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 when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The standard rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin harming your ears. We’re not really used to considering sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a number we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because it’s not just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder 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): Anything above four hours will be harmful to your hearing.
- 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): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any amount of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will lead to instant harm and most likely pain to your ears.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, particularly if you’re exposed to those noises for any duration.
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 outside sound will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about also: comfort. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals may value the leave-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 an important factor. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, 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 option.
You’re ears will stay happier and healthier if you find the correct degree of hearing protection for your situation.