A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours each day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. But it seems logical when you stop to consider it. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to harm your ears is a basic rule of thumb. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s fairly significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it’s not just the volume of the noise that you need to be aware of, 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 wearing hearing protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will start to happen to your ears if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Damage to your hearing occurs after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any amount of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and might even cause immediate pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
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 outside sound will be (temporarily).
It’s really 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 might be appropriate).
Comfort is also an important component to think about. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other individuals 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 remove them at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Find a Constant Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them 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 whole workday is the best choice.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.