Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. Your hearing health can be negatively impacted by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
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 need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a general rule of thumb. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we calculate 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 approximately 85 decibels. That’s not a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably consider using ear 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 is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing occurs after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of sound, utilize hearing protection that will bring the decibels 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. The outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about as well: comfort. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but most of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are the best choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other people, 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 remove them at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and scratchy, your ears can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best choice.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.