Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic is going to need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin damaging 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 about 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider hearing protection if you are 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 above four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour is considered harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing happens after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause instant harm and most likely pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of sound, utilize hearing protection that will bring the volume 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.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an important component to take into consideration. It’s very important that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best choice 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 (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 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. So the most important decision you can make is to choose 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.