Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to weaken your hearing health. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
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 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 harm your ears is a standard rule of thumb. We’re not really used to considering sound in terms of 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 sitting inside your car. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to think about wearing hearing protection. 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 is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this level of noise 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): If your exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause instant harm and most likely 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
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. Outside sound will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about also: comfort. It’s very important that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
Hearing Protection Choices
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 the majority of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people might appreciate the put-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 Constant Degree of Hearing Protection
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your ears can suffer over the long run. So the most important decision you can make is to pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will stay healthier and happier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.