A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can start to undermine the health of your hearing. This is why questions like “what hearing protection do I need?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to consider it. A jet engine mechanic is going to require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a standard rule of thumb. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how dangerous 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? Actually, it’s fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it isn’t just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour will be damaging 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 harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause immediate harm and most likely pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of ear protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to think about. It turns out, 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?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. For some individuals, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other people may 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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is important 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. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best option.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.