A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Even modest noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to undermine the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it seems logical when you stop to consider it. A truck driver won’t need 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 start harming 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. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because it isn’t just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing 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 is considered harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 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 harm to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes 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 outside world will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another factor to consider also: comfort. It’s very important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but much of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. Earmuffs are a better choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people might value the put-them-in-and-forget-them strategy 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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major 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 pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears healthy and happy.