A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even moderate levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic is going to require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a standard rule of thumb. We aren’t really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a figure we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. At least, it’s a big deal after eight hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider hearing protection if you’re 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 is considered harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Damage to your hearing takes place after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any length of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will lead to instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, especially if you are exposed to those noises for any duration.
Find a Comfortable Fit
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to think about. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, 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 Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. 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 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 healthy and happy.