Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to undermine your hearing health. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. A jet engine mechanic will need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to damage your ears is a standard 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 around 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. At least, it’s a biggie after eight hours. Because it isn’t just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably think about wearing hearing protection. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will begin 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 damaging to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause immediate 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 are exposed to those noises for any amount of time.
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.
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’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
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.
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but the majority of your hearing protection decision will come down to personal preference. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. 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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is important because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in 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. So the most important decision you can make is to pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.