A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). Even modest noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can start to weaken the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. A jet engine mechanic is going to need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a basic rule of thumb. We’re not really used to considering sound in decibels (even though that’s how we measure 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. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware 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): Anything over one hour is considered harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing happens after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If you are exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 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 levels of sound, wear 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. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
But there’s another factor to consider as well: comfort. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but the majority of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other individuals might appreciate the leave-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 Constant Degree of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is a significant factor. If you remove your earmuffs 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 whole workday is the best choice.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.