Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively impacted by even moderate levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
It isn’t common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to think about it. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
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. That’s not a big deal, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several 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’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours will be damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be injured when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing occurs after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any amount of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and might even cause immediate pain.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume 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 outside world will be progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about also: comfort. As it happens, comfort is incredibly significant to keeping your hearing healthy. 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 sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but most of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals might value the leave-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you should take them out for a good cleaning).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a significant factor. If you remove your earmuffs 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 entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you choose the correct degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.