Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also affect your concentration. The health of your hearing can be negatively impacted by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours each day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it seems logical when you stop to think about it. A jet engine mechanic is going to 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 harming your ears. Putting sound into context regarding 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 around 85 decibels. That’s not a big deal, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably think about using ear protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything over four hours will be damaging to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of ear protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
It’s very important that you choose hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will typically make suggestions about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an essential factor to take into consideration. As it happens, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but much of your hearing protection decision will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. 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 result in damage, so comfort is an important factor. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your ears can suffer over the long run. 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 happier and healthier if you find the correct degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.