A noisy workplace isn’t very good for your ears (or your focus, for that matter). Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can start to undermine the health of your hearing. That’s why it’s really smart to begin 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 seems logical when you stop to consider it. A jet engine mechanic will require a different level of protection than a truck driver.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can start to harm your ears is a basic rule of thumb. 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 around 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. At least, it’s a big deal after eight hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours a day or more, you need to consider wearing ear protection. But that isn’t the only threshold you need to be aware of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours is considered harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Your hearing will be damaged when exposed to this noise level for 1 hour a day.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Injury to your hearing happens after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your exposed to this level of noise for any amount of time, your hearing can be damaged.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): Any exposure can cause damage and could even cause immediate 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 duration.
Find a Comfortable Fit
NRR, which is an acronym for Noise Reduction Rate, is a scale used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
It’s really important that you pick hearing protection with a high enough NRR to effectively protect your hearing (and your workplace will typically make suggestions about what level will be appropriate).
Comfort is also an important factor to think about. It’s really essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to wear if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you’re not going to wear it.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are a better choice for people whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other people, 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 take them out at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is essential because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them 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 entire workday is the best choice.
You’re ears will stay happier and healthier if you find the correct level of hearing protection for your circumstance.