Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken your hearing health. That’s why it’s really smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to consider it. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful 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 rather significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that’s not the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If you are 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 lead to instant harm and probably 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 noises for any duration.
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 your world will become (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
But there’s another element 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. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other people, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better alternative (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 significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them 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 whole workday is the best option.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears healthy and happy.