Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even modest 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”?
It isn’t common knowledge that numerous levels of hearing protection are available. 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.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The general 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 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 approximately 85 decibels. 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 the duration of exposure.
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’s not the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage will begin to happen to your hearing if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over 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 cause damage and could even cause immediate pain.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, particularly if you’re exposed to those sounds for any amount of time.
Find a Comfortable Fit
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your hearing 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 ears healthy. This is because you’re less likely to actually wear your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other people may appreciate the put-them-in-and-forget-them strategy of earplugs (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
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major factor. If you take your earmuffs off for ten minutes because they’re heavy and scratchy, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will remain happier and healthier if you find the correct level of hearing protection for your situation.