Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even modest levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. That’s why it’s really smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection should I use”?
Many of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But it makes sense 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 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 harmful it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a big deal after eight hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are very significant when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you should probably consider wearing hearing protection. 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 happen to your ears 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): Anything above fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If you are exposed to this noise level for any length of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can lead to damage and may even cause instant pain.
When you are going to be exposed to these levels of noise, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
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 be (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.
Comfort is also an essential component to take into consideration. 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.
Hearing Protection Choices
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that go within the ear canal
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of protection, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better solution (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 Consistent Level of Hearing Protection
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to take them off for short periods and that can have a negative impact 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 right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.