Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your focus. Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic will need a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Hearing Damage Levels
The standard rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s about 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are extremely important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you are exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But that’s not the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will begin to occur to your hearing if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be damaging to your hearing.
- 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): Any exposure can cause harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and could even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the hearing protection you wear to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, particularly if you’re exposed to those noises for any duration.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to measure the effectiveness of hearing protection. 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 ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another aspect to consider also: comfort. As it happens, comfort is extremely important to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
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 kind of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people might appreciate 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 Consistent Degree of Hearing Protection
Comfort is significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in 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. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best solution.
You’re ears will stay happier and healthier if you find the correct degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.