A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even moderate levels of noise 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.
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. 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.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to damage your ears is a standard rule of thumb. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how dangerous 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. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it’s not just the volume of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider hearing protection if you are 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): Anything over four hours will be harmful to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause immediate harm and most likely 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.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of ear protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to take into consideration. As it happens, comfort is extremely important to keeping your ears healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- In-ear earplugs
- 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 people, earplugs are irritating, so earmuffs may be a better choice. 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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
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 pick hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you choose the correct level of hearing protection for your situation.