A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to undermine your hearing health. That’s why it’s pretty 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 think about it. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a basic rule of thumb. We aren’t really used to considering sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we calculate 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 driving your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are extremely important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above 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 immediate damage 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’re exposed to those noises for any duration.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of hearing protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another aspect to consider also: comfort. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some individuals, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other people may appreciate 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 result in damage, so comfort is an important factor. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your ears can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.