Your hearing can be damaged by a loud workplace and it can also affect your focus. Your hearing health can be negatively impacted by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours each day. That’s why it’s really smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
It’s not common knowledge that several levels of hearing protection are available. But it makes sense when you stop to consider it. A jet engine mechanic will require 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.
Eighty-five decibels is about how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. That’s not 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
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you should probably think about 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): Anything above four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Damage to your hearing takes place after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and may even cause instant pain.
When you are going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of ear protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the correct protection.
Comfort is also an essential factor to take into consideration. It turns out, comfort is incredibly important to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of protection, but the majority of your hearing protection choices will come down to personal preference. Earmuffs are the best option for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. Other individuals might 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 Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a major factor. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. So the most important decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you need can help keep your ears happy and healthy.