Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to undermine 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”?
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But when you take some time to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to harm your ears is a general rule of thumb. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a number we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a big deal after eight hours. Because it’s not just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you should probably think about using ear protection. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing 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 damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and may even cause instant pain.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the volume 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 determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about as well: comfort. It’s very essential 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 isn’t comfortable.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals may appreciate the put-them-in-and-forget-them strategy 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).
Find a Consistent Degree of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major factor. 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.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you choose the correct degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.