A noisy workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to undermine the health of your hearing. This is why questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it seems logical when you stop to think about it. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The general rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin damaging your ears. We aren’t really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it’s just not a number we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical 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 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 ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 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 level of noise will cause instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of sound, wear hearing protection that will bring the volume 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 outside sound will become (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
But there’s another factor to think about also: comfort. It turns out, comfort is incredibly important to keeping your ears healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (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 significant factor. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best option.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears healthy and happy.