Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. Even modest noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to weaken your hearing health. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
It’s not common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to consider it. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to damage 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 calculate sound – it’s just not a figure we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s about 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you should probably think about using hearing protection. But that’s not the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will start to occur to your hearing if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing happens 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 level of noise will lead to instant damage and most likely pain to your ears.
You’ll want the ear protection you wear to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, especially if you’re exposed to those sounds for any duration.
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 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 essential to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an important factor to think about. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit 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 individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (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 Level of Hearing Protection
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 choice.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.