A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to consider it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic is going to 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 decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a figure we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s about 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably think about 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 above four hours will be damaging to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 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 damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause immediate damage and probably pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, utilize hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. The outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another aspect to consider as well: comfort. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
Each type of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people may value the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to take them off for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best solution.
You’re ears will stay healthier and happier if you choose the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.