A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Even modest 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.
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start harming 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.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it isn’t just the loudness of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to think about using hearing protection. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour will be harmful to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If you are exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and might even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, particularly if you’re exposed to those sounds 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 outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an important factor to take into consideration. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but the majority of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so earmuffs may be a better choice. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better solution (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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major factor. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. So the most crucial decision you can make is to select hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.