Who Needs Hearing Protection?
Just as you try to stay healthy by exercising and eating right or wearing a helmet if you cycle or ski, it pays to protect yourself from occupational hearing loss and hearing problems. Noise in the workplace, such as loud machinery or motors can bring noise-induced hearing loss.
The louder the sound, the less time it takes to harm your hearing. For example, without proper ear protection, running a chainsaw for only two minutes can be dangerous for your hearing.
Which Sounds Are Dangerous To Your Ears?
Industrial workplace noises, gunfire, music and other common everyday sounds that are louder than 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing loss. Just how loud is 85 dB?
Take a look at these decibel ratings and permissible exposure times provided by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NIOSH/CDC).
Intensities of Common Sounds in Decibels
|City Traffic, inside the car||85 dB||8 hours|
|Bulldozer||88 dB||4 hours|
|Jazz Concert||91 dB||2 hours|
|Power Mower||94 dB||1 hour|
|Nightclub||97 dB||30 minutes|
|Ambulance Siren, inside driver window down||100 dB||15 minutes|
|Rock Concert, Leaf Blower||115 dB||30 seconds|
*Permissible Exposure Time
For a complete listing of over 1700 noises and their corresponding decibel levels, check out this list of Exposure Time Guidelines from Dangerous Decibels.
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What Hearing Protection Works for Hunters and Recreational Shooters?
Roughly 50 percent of all recreational shooters may suffer some degree of hearing loss. Most gunfire exceeds 130 decibels. To prevent hearing loss and permanent damage to hearing, use reliable ear protection.
As a hunter, you need to be able to hear very soft sounds, while still protecting your ears from the peak noise levels of a shotgun blast. Fortunately, hunters have many options for ear protection, including custom or over-the-counter ear plugs or earmuffs and devices that provide amplification while muffling the sounds of gunfire.
Electronic ear plugs enhance the sounds around you. For example, you can hear game movement but also reduce impulse sounds (such as gunfire) to a safe level. This helps prevent damage to your hearing. Electronic ear plugs are available in custom molds as well as standard, less expensive alternatives.
How You Can Prevent Occupational Hearing Loss
According to the NIOSH, approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, causing an estimated $242 million per year to be spent on worker’s compensation due to hearing loss disability. NIOSH recommends that workers’ exposures to noise be controlled below specific levels to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss.
Loud, constant sounds all day at work can cause long term hearing problems. Extreme, sudden noise bursts louder than 90 decibels, such as gunfire, industrial noises, woodworking, motorcycles, loud music and motorized lawn equipment, are more damaging to hearing than regular and extended exposure to more moderate noise over a longer period.
NIOSH recommends a hearing loss prevention program that includes using hearing protection devices, periodic hearing tests and education for workers along with administrative controls that include accurate record keeping, evaluations and audits.
When Law Enforcement Needs Hearing Protection
If you’re involved in law enforcement, you know how important your hearing is to perform your job effectively. You may also have experienced a situation in which firing your weapon has temporarily reduced your ability to hear. And if it hasn’t already happened, there may be a future situation where your partner or a member of your team will be forced to fire their weapon in close proximity or in a confined area. The potential damage to your hearing could be severe and cause irreversible hearing loss.
How Musicians Can Protect Their Hearing
Professional musicians work in a high decibel environment that can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, hypersensitivity to sound and sound distortion.
Traditional earplugs won’t work for the professional musician because they reduce sound by muffling low-to-mid-range frequencies. Instead, look for custom musicians ear molds. They’re available to protect musicians’ ears from loud sounds without distorting what they hear. There are also a variety of “in ear monitors” and other products that will enhance the music experience and protect your ears, whether you’re a serious musician or just a music aficionado.