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Let’s chat about Hearing Protection

“Eh? I can’t hear you.”

Do you want to end up sounding like this? When we are younger, we think we are invincible. As we progress in age, our senses may begin to deteriorate – unless we are proactive.

This blog is all about protecting your hearing and caring for your ears in the workplace. Know when you need hearing protection and what type will work best for you. Ears are different and you may have to try different types of hearing protection in order to see what works best for you. Does it fit snugly, and is it comfortable and is it effective?   

To achieve the best results, the earplugs must fit properly and be worn correctly in order to have the best results. If a proper fit is not achieved, then you are doing yourself a disservice and could actually be causing more harm to your hearing.

You will see the initials “NRR” for earplugs. It stands for Noise Reduction Rating and is the number of decibels that your earplugs are blocking out. The highest NRR rating for earplugs is 33, and the highest available NRR rating for earmuffs is 31. These values reflect the level of noise protection available for each device when worn alone. Combining earplugs with earmuffs can offer a NRR protection level of 36.
Higher noise levels over 90 dB can really do some damage to your ears. Take a look at this chart to determine some noise levels in different scenarios:

Let’s figure out which NRR rating you would need to help block out enough sound. Take the NRR rating, subtract the number 7 and divide by 2. Then take this number and subtract it from the likely decibel rating in the environment that you are in.

For example, let’s say you are in a noisy factory or at a loud construction site at 100 decibels. A 33 dB NRR rating would reduce your decibel by (33-7)/2 = 13, then subtract 13 from 100 to reduce your exposure to noise to around 87 dB.  Any sounds louder than 85 decibels have the potential for causing noise-induced hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require earplug use for workers exposed to loud noises. But earplugs should be used by those in loud recreational activities such as a concert, being on a loud motor boat or attending a NASCAR race.

 

Disposable earplugs are most commonly offered at the workplace. These are discarded after every use and are typically made of foam or polyurethane foam (memory foam).

Reusable earplugs are nice to have to always be prepared. They can be made of a soft silicone material and are easily cleaned to use again and again. Sometimes they are offered in a carry case and you may choose a corded or uncorded option.

Earmuffs are for those who are working around lawn equipment or heavy-duty machinery and for those who cannot adapt to the earplug. Again, earmuffs will work for those in extremely loud environments like with aircraft engines.

OSHA Standard 1910.95(a) states that protection against the effects of noise exposure shall be provided when the sound levels exceed those shown in the table below:

PERMISSIBLE NOISE EXPOSURES:Loud noise hurts everyone and continued exposure impairs hearing and weakens emotional welfare, exposing employers to potential liabilities.

What can you do to protect your hearing?

Avoid harmful noise. Concerts or loud movies can be a great experience but can hurt your hearing. Wear hearing protection. Do you spend time at a firing range or near a place with deafening noise? Use an earmuff or a high NRR earplug.
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits. Making great lifestyle choices are great for your overall health and hearing. Eat well, exercise and refrain from smoking to keep your body fit and in shape.
Get your hearing checked regularly. Hearing problems can be treated if they are caught early. Ask your doctor for a hearing test as often as you get your eyes checked.

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