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Your hearing can be damaged by a noisy workplace and it can also affect your concentration. Even moderate noise, when experienced for eight hours a day, can start to undermine your hearing health. For this reason questions like “what hearing protection should I use?” are worth asking.

Most of us probably didn’t even know there were multiple levels of hearing protection. But it seems logical when you stop to consider it. A truck driver won’t require the same amount of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.

Levels of Hearing Damage

The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. We aren’t really used to thinking about sound in terms of decibels (even though that’s how we measure sound – it just isn’t a number we’re used to putting into context).

When you’re sitting in your car in city traffic, that’s around 85 decibels. That isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after numerous hours. Because it’s not just the loudness of the noise that you need to pay attention to, it’s how long you’re exposed.

Common Danger Zones

If you’re exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours every day or more, you need to think about using hearing protection. But there are some other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:

  • 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): injury will begin to happen to your hearing if you’re exposed to this level of noise for 4 hours a day.
  • 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
  • 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): Any exposure can cause damage to your ears.
  • 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This level of noise will lead to immediate damage and probably pain to your ears.

You’ll want the hearing protection you choose to be sufficient to bring the decibel level below that 85 dB level, especially if you’re exposed to those noises for any duration.

Find a Comfortable Fit

The effectiveness of ear protection is quantified by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. Outside sound will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.

It’s very 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 important that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your ears safe. Why? Because if your hearing protection is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it.

Hearing Protection Choices

There Are Basically Three Options:

  • Earplugs that sit within the ear canal
  • Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
  • Earmuffs.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of protection, but much of your hearing protection decision will depend upon personal preference. For some individuals, earplugs are uncomfortable, so they’d be better served with earmuffs. For other people, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better option (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

Any laps in your hearing protection can result in damage, so comfort is an important factor. If you remove your earmuffs for ten minutes because they’re heavy and uncomfortable, your hearing can suffer over the long run. This is why hearing protection that you can leave in for the whole workday is the best choice.

Investing in the degree of hearing protection you require can help keep your ears healthy and happy.

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References

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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