A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). Even modest noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. 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 numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take a moment to consider 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 basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, 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 be aware of, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to think about ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be damaging to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be damaged when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 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 damage to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and might even cause instant pain.
When you are 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
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 be (temporarily).
It’s really important that you choose hearing protection with a high enough NRR to effectively protect your hearing (and your workplace will usually make guidelines about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an important factor to think about. As it happens, comfort is incredibly significant to keeping your ears healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of protection, but most of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are a better choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals might value the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Find a Constant Degree of Hearing Protection
Comfort is important because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to take them off for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best solution.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.