Your hearing can be harmed by a noisy workplace and it can also impact your focus. Your hearing health can be negatively affected by even modest noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours every day. This is why questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Many of us probably didn’t even realize there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to think about 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 harmful 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. That isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s pretty significant. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency 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 using hearing protection. But that isn’t the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury 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): Anything above one hour will be damaging to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered harmful to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any amount of time, your hearing can be harmed.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and could even cause immediate pain.
When you’re going to be exposed to these levels of sound, use hearing protection that will bring the volume in your ears down below 85 dB.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of hearing protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what degree of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
But there’s another element to think about as well: comfort. As it happens, comfort is extremely important to keeping your hearing healthy. This is because you’re not as likely to actually use your hearing protection if it isn’t comfortable.
What Are my 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.
Each form of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but most of your hearing protection choices will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. Other individuals may appreciate 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
Any laps in your hearing protection can lead to damage, so comfort is a significant factor. 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. So the most crucial decision you can make is to select hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.