Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively impacted by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
Many of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The standard rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin harming your ears. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a biggie after several hours. Because it isn’t just the volume 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 should probably consider wearing ear protection. But that’s not the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will begin to happen to your ears if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and could even cause immediate pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of noise, use 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 higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another factor to consider as well: comfort. It turns out, comfort is incredibly significant to keeping your hearing healthy. 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:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but the majority of your hearing protection decision will depend upon 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 significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the full workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you choose the right degree of hearing protection for your situation.