Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your focus. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can begin to weaken the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to start 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 consider it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can begin damaging your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful 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 sitting inside your car. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider hearing protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or louder for 8 hour days. But that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours is considered harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes will be harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and might even cause instant pain.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of sound, utilize hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of hearing protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the quieter your world will become (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
Comfort is also an important component to think about. It’s very important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each form of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but most of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other individuals may appreciate the leave-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (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).
Find a Constant Level of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is a significant factor. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the full workday is the best choice.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.