Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours each day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. A jet engine mechanic is going to require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to damage your ears is a standard rule of thumb. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. 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 how long you’re exposed.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that’s not the only threshold you should 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 hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If you are exposed to this level of noise for any amount of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will lead to instant harm and probably 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, especially if you are exposed to those sounds for any amount of time.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of ear protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
But there’s another element to think about as well: comfort. As it happens, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best option 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 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 an important 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.
You’re ears will stay happier and healthier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.