A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively impacted by even modest levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours each day. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take some time to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. 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 driving your car. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s the duration of exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you need to consider wearing ear protection. 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 hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing occurs after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and might even cause instant pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of noise, utilize hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
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 your world will be (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor 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’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of protection, but most of your hearing protection decision will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are a better choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other people, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better alternative (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 Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is important because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. 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 full workday is the best option.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you choose the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.