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 your hearing health. That’s why it’s pretty smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
It’s not common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But when you take some time to consider it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic will need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a basic rule of thumb. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re sitting inside your car. That’s not a big deal, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that’s not the only threshold you should 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): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any amount of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to instant harm and probably pain to your ears.
You’ll want the hearing protection you wear to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, particularly if you’re exposed to those noises for any duration.
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 higher the NRR, the quieter your world will be (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
But there’s another element to consider as well: comfort. It’s really important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing 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:
- 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 choices will depend upon personal preference. Earmuffs are the best choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (obviously, you won’t want to forget them for too long… you should remove them at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Find a Consistent Degree of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is an important factor. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. So the most important decision you can make is to pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.