A loud workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Your hearing health can be negatively impacted by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours each day. That’s why it’s really smart to begin asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to think about it. A truck driver won’t need the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a standard rule of thumb. Putting sound into context regarding its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something most of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. 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 noise exposure.
Common Danger Zones
It’s time to think about hearing protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Damage 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): Your ears will be damaged when exposed to this level of noise for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing takes place 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 lead to damage and might even cause immediate pain.
You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, particularly if you are exposed to those sounds for any amount of time.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of ear protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
It’s incredibly important that you pick hearing protection with a high enough NRR to keep you safe (and your workplace will usually make recommendations about what level might be appropriate).
Comfort is also an essential component to take into consideration. As it happens, comfort is incredibly important to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are uncomfortable, so earmuffs may be a better choice. Other individuals may value the put-them-in-and-forget-them approach of earplugs (of course, at the end of the workday you will need to take them out for a good cleaning).
Find a Constant Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If you remove your earmuffs 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 healthier and happier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your situation.