A loud workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several 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 several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to consider it. A jet engine mechanic is going to 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 begin damaging your ears. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how dangerous it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s about 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a big deal after eight hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to be aware of, it’s the duration of exposure.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably consider using ear protection. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will begin to occur to your ears if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be damaged when exposed to this noise level 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 harm to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause instant damage and probably pain to your ears.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
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 outside sound 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.
But there’s another aspect to consider as well: comfort. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your hearing safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
What Are my Hearing Protection Options?
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but much of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. Earmuffs are a better choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other people, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (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 Degree of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is an important factor. 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 option.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears happy and healthy.