Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for many hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to think about it. A jet engine mechanic will need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The standard rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. We’re not really used to considering sound in decibels (even though that’s how we measure 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 approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common 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 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 is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to immediate damage and most likely pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these volumes of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
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 become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
But there’s another factor to consider also: comfort. It’s really essential 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 use 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 type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other people might appreciate the leave-them-in-and-forget-them strategy 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 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 crucial decision you can make is to select hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will stay healthier and happier if you choose the correct degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.