When Is Hearing Protection Necessary? - How To Protect Your Hearing
Have you ever been somewhere really loud — at a concert, say, or driving past a construction site — and noticed how long it takes for your hearing to return to normal?
Loud noises can be dangerous to your ears. While a few moments around an electric guitar or jackhammer will likely not cause permanent damage, you could sustain hearing loss through regular, extended exposure to loud noise.
This may spark a number of questions:
- How loud is too loud for your ears?
- What type of noise can cause damage?
- How to protect your hearing in these everyday or special situations?
Consider this your guide to figuring out the when, what, why and how of hearing protection. Let’s start with exploring what common decibel levels are and when you need to start looking out for your hearing.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
Noise surrounds us in our everyday lives. In fact, finding utter quiet is rare no matter what your profession or household situation might be. But some environments have more noise than others, and it’s important to gauge when you creep toward more dangerous territory in terms of decibel levels.
What is a decibel? It’s the unit used to measure the level of sound. Referred to as “dB,” it’s essentially a ranking system for how loud something is.
To get an idea of what type of noise could be capable of damaging hearing, establish a baseline first. For example, when you walk down the street and hear the gentle rustle of leaves, that’s about 30 dB. The gentle background noise of any home measures about 40 dB, while a typical conversation increases to 60 dB.
Those levels won’t strain or hurt your ears. But when you jack up the noise level, that’s when you start approaching danger levels. Experts say any sort of noise 85 dB and above could impact your hearing. This is how some other common situations stack up:
- Vacuum cleaner: 75 dB
- Lawnmower: 90 dB
- Leaf blower or snowmobile: 105-115 dB
- Loud rock concert: 115 dB
- Stock car racing: 130
- Blast from a gun: 140 dB
When Is Ear Protection Necessary?
Most experts agree that when noise is over 85 dB, you probably need to protect your ears, though prolonged exposure to a lower volume of noise could also necessitate ear protection.
For instance, you could probably be exposed to a vacuum cleaner for eight hours a day at 75 dB without suffering long-term, permanent damage. But if you attend a rock concert, you should be there no longer than 15 minutes without protection. And you should never allow your naked ears to be exposed to 140 dB or above, as you may get an earache or put yourself at risk for hearing loss.
Keep in mind that the longer your ears endure loud noise, the more likely you are to sustain damage. So even in situations where noise seems relatively low, protection may be a good precautionary measure.
Tips for Hearing Protection for Kids and Adults
The smartest strategy for protecting your hearing is avoiding excess noise whenever possible. Turn down your music or switch off your leaf blower.
Of course, this isn’t always possible, and so the next-best thing both kids and adults can do to protect themselves from hearing loss is getting some type of protection if they are consistently exposed to noise levels of 75 dB or above. By using these tools, you get the greatest level of defense.
Tell your kids when this protection should be worn. They may not think about it themselves. If, for instance, your child participates in a rock band or mows lawns for extra money, monitor and enforce their use of hearing protection aids. Your child should also wear hearing protection aids at loud sporting events, when riding a snowmobile and if they’re participating in shooting sports.
Types of Hearing Protection
What you choose to protect your ears with will depend on your individual preferences. Some people can’t stand having an earbud-type device near their ear canal. Others will swear it provides the best protection. Here are a few popular methods you could try:
- Foam earplugs: These cost very little and conveniently can be purchased at the drugstore. They’re reusable, but they’re less effective against louder noise.
- Hard earplugs: These premolded plugs can be made from plastic, silicone or even rubber. They look a bit like ice cream cones, and some kids find them less comfortable than foam plugs, though they block more noise.
- Earmuffs: These look like cordless headphones and they cover the entire ear. They’re more expensive, but also less likely to slip off the ears than earplugs. The over-ear portion contains fluid or foam to block out the surrounding noise.
- Hocks Noise Brakers: These look like earplugs, but they’re a bit different. They allow air to enter the ear and are customized to your ear for a tighter fit.
Protecting Your Hearing No Matter the Situation
You may face many times when your hearing could be compromised by loud noise. By implementing the right protection measures, including using a device to block out noise, you can save yourself the pain and hassle of hearing loss. If you worry you have already begun to sustain hearing loss, get in touch with Beltone and we can investigate together.