Your hearing can be harmed 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 should I use?” are worth asking.
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But it makes sense when you stop to consider it. A jet engine mechanic is going to require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start harming your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to consider using hearing protection. But that’s not the only threshold you need to 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 above one hour is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 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): If you are exposed to this level of noise for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to instant harm and most likely pain to your ears.
You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, especially if you are 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 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 hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an important factor to take into consideration. It turns out, comfort is extremely important to keeping your ears healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each form of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are uncomfortable, so earmuffs may be a better choice. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Find a Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is an important factor. 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. So the most important decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.