A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even modest levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours each 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 several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
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 considering sound in decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a figure we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to think about ear protection if you are 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): Damage will start to happen to your ears if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour will be harmful to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing takes place 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 volumes of sound, wear hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to think about. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but the majority of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. Earmuffs are the best option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people may appreciate the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (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 important because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to take them off for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the full workday is the best solution.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you choose the correct level of hearing protection for your circumstance.