Do You Have A Deaf Wish?
Hearing is one of your senses that can be lost suddenly or gradually, and often, hearing loss is due to exposure to loud noises. You may not even notice a gradual loss. Halting further damage may be possible with proper protection, but it’s better to be proactive and do what you can to prevent hearing loss.
What’s “too loud”?
Despite what you may have heard, you can’t train your ears to “get used to” loud noises. You may learn to tune them out, but that still leaves your ears exposed. Decibels, the unit of measure for noise levels, are the culprits for noise-related hearing loss. The higher the decibel level, the higher the chance for damage. If noise interferes with hearing someone talking two feet away, you need hearing protection.
Experts recommend always wearing hearing protection for noises over 85 decibels when exposure time or noise source can’t be reduced or eliminated, or distancing yourself from the noise isn’t possible. Most power tools easily fall into this range. An impact wrench under load ranges from 101-111, and a typical 3/8-inch chuck drill from 87-98. An air conditioner may be only 60 decibels at a distance of 100 feet, but move to within a foot, and it soars to an uncomfortable 100 decibels.
Plugs or Muffs?
Your work environment will determine whether you should be using earplugs or ear muffs. The decision should be based on comfort, noise intensity and duration, company policy, and the need to wear hearing protection all or part of the time.
Earplugs can reduce noise levels by up to 30 decibels. The higher the Noise Reduction Rating, the higher the protection. There are three basic types:
- Formable. Disposable or semi-disposable; can be molded to fit ears.
- Pre-molded. Reusable; come in different sizes.
- Custom fit. Molded to fit only you; silicone rubber or plastic.
Earplugs are inexpensive, low maintenance, and can be easily worn under hardhats and other protective gear; however, because they’re harder to remove and insert properly, they may not be the best choice for intermittent protection.
These are like earplugs on a headband, which holds them in place. They are lighter than ear muffs, and easier to get on and off than earplugs.
Ear muffs are cushioned cups attached to an adjustable headband. Ear muffs are encouraged whenever there is a work environment with consistent noise levels higher than 85 decibels. Although they are easier to put on and take off and can be worn in combination with earplugs for added protection, they are bulkier and more expensive, and may not fit well with hardhats, glasses, masks, etc.
Once your hearing is damaged, it can’t be fixed. You’ll thank yourself later for protecting your hearing today.
Safe@Work is brought to you by Federated Insurance®. This article is for general information and risk prevention purposes only and should not be considered legal, medical, or other expert advice. It is not a guarantee that the risk of loss will be eliminated or reduced. Always consult your personal physician for questions regarding your health concerns. Qualified counsel should be sought regarding questions specific to your circumstances.
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