Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It’s not common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take a moment to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start harming your ears. We’re not really used to considering sound in decibels (even though that’s how we calculate 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 fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you need to consider wearing hearing protection. 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 hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 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 cause immediate damage and most likely pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of hearing protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the quieter your world will be (temporarily).
It’s incredibly important that you select hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will usually make recommendations about what level will be appropriate).
But there’s another factor to think about as well: comfort. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals might value the leave-them-in-and-forget-them strategy 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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. 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 solution.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.