Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. 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.
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But when you take some time to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm 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 number we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s around 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a biggie after eight hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to consider wearing ear protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will begin to happen to your hearing if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be injured when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any amount of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause instant damage and most likely pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, utilize hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of hearing protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an important component to think about. As it happens, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. This is because you’re less likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals might value the put-them-in-and-forget-them strategy of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you should 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 a major 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 pick 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 happy and healthy.