Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also affect your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even modest levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
It isn’t 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 need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a general rule of thumb. We’re not really used to thinking about 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 driving your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But that’s not the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and may even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, especially 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 be (temporarily).
It’s really important that you select hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will typically make suggestions about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an important component to think about. 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.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. For other people, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better alternative (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Find a Consistent Degree of Hearing Protection
Comfort is significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your situation.