Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also impact your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s pretty smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
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 need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a basic rule of thumb. We’re not really used to thinking about sound in decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it’s just not a number 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? Actually, it’s rather significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
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’s not the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will start to happen to your hearing if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 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 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 cause damage and could even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, particularly if you are exposed to those noises for any duration.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
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 recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another factor to think about also: comfort. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Choices?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. For some individuals, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other people may value the put-them-in-and-forget-them strategy of earplugs (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).
Find a Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. 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. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will stay healthier and happier if you choose the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.