Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also impact your focus. The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even moderate levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for numerous hours every day. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.
Most of us probably didn’t even realize there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take some time to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t need the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to damage your ears is a basic rule of thumb. We aren’t really used to thinking about sound in decibels (even though that’s how we calculate sound – it’s just not a figure we’re used to putting into context).
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. 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 noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to consider wearing hearing protection. But that’s not the only threshold you should be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be injured when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything over fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will cause instant damage and probably pain to your ears.
You’ll want the ear protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the volume below that 85 dB level, especially if you are exposed to those noises for any amount of time.
Find a Comfortable Fit
The effectiveness of ear protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The higher the NRR, the quieter outside sound will be (temporarily).
The majority of workplaces will have guidelines as to what degree of protection will keep your hearing safe because it’s essential to have the right protection.
But there’s another element to consider as well: comfort. It turns out, comfort is extremely significant to keeping your hearing healthy. Why? Because if your hearing protection isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that stay just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each form of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is frequently the deciding factor. For some people, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better alternative (of course, at the end of the workday you should take them out for a good cleaning).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is important because any lapse in your hearing protection can lead to damage. 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 crucial decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you find the right degree of hearing protection for your circumstance.