Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Even modest noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can start to weaken the health of your hearing. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take some time to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage 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).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are extremely significant 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 using hearing protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will start to occur to your ears if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour is considered harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be damaging to your hearing.
- 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 levels of sound, utilize 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 measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
It’s very important that you pick hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will usually make suggestions about what level will be appropriate).
But there’s another element to consider also: comfort. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually use your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so earmuffs may be a better choice. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (of course, at the end of the workday you should take them out for a good cleaning).
Find a Consistent Level 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 scratchy, your ears can suffer over the long run. So the most important decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.