Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your concentration. The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin harming your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s approximately 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. 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
It’s time to think about ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But that isn’t 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 level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything above one hour is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 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 damage to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and could even cause immediate pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of sound, wear hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
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 higher the NRR, the quieter your world will become (temporarily).
It’s incredibly important that you pick hearing protection with a high enough NRR to effectively protect your hearing (and your workplace will typically make suggestions about what level might be appropriate).
But there’s another factor to think about as well: comfort. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- In-ear earplugs
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better choice 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 should take them out for a good cleaning).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
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 take them off for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. 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 degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.