Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take some time to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The general rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. Putting sound into context with regards to 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 around 85 decibels. That’s not a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because it isn’t just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you need to think about wearing hearing protection. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours will be damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be damaging to your hearing.
- 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): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will lead to instant damage and probably pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels 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 determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
It’s very important that you select hearing protection with a high enough NRR to effectively protect your hearing (and your workplace will typically make suggestions about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an important factor to think about. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that stay just outside of 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 choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people may value the leave-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (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
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. So the most crucial decision you can make is to pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you choose the right level of hearing protection for your circumstance.