A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours each day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same amount 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 general rule of thumb. We aren’t really used to thinking about sound in decibels (even though that’s how we calculate sound – it’s just not a number we’re used to putting into context).
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s how long you’re exposed.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you should probably consider wearing hearing protection. But that’s not the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be damaging to your hearing.
- 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): Anything over fifteen minutes will be damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will cause instant harm and most likely pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these volumes of sound, utilize hearing protection that will bring the volume 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 your world will become (temporarily).
Most workplaces will have guidelines as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another element to consider also: comfort. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of protection, but most of your hearing protection decision will come down to personal preference. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so earmuffs may be a better choice. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better solution (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).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. 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 crucial decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears happy and healthy.