Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your concentration. The health of your hearing can be negatively impacted by even moderate levels of noise 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 consider it, it makes sense. A jet engine mechanic will require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start harming 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.
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it isn’t just the loudness of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s the duration of exposure.
Typical 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 that isn’t the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will start to occur to your hearing if you’re exposed to this volume of noise for 4 hours a day.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your ears will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Damage to your hearing occurs 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 cause damage and could even cause instant pain.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, especially if you’re exposed to those sounds for any amount of time.
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 outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
Most workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree 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 turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better option for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better alternative (obviously, you won’t want to forget them for too long… you should remove them at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Find a Consistent Degree 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 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 solution.
You’re ears will stay happier and healthier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.