Your hearing can be harmed by a loud workplace and it can also impact your focus. Your hearing health can be negatively impacted by even moderate noise levels if you’re exposed to it for several hours each day. For this reason 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 when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Levels of Hearing Damage
The fact that 85dB of sound can begin to damage your ears is a general rule of thumb. We aren’t really used to considering sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a figure we’re used to putting into context).
When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s around 85 decibels. No biggie, right? Actually, it’s rather significant. At least, it’s a big deal after several hours. Because the duration and frequency of exposure are very important when it comes to damaging exposure to noise.
Common Danger Zones
If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every 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): Anything over four hours will be damaging to your hearing.
- 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): Damage to your hearing takes place after 15 minutes of exposure to this noise level.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): If your 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 might 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 duration.
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 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.
But there’s another factor to think about as well: comfort. It’s very important 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 won’t wear it.
Hearing Protection Choices
You’ve got three basic options to choose from:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each type of protection has benefits and drawbacks, but much of your hearing protection decision will come down to personal preference. For some people, earplugs are irritating, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. 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).
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 take them off for short periods and that can have a negative effect on your hearing over time. So the most important decision you can make is to choose hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
Investing in the level of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears happy and healthy.