Benjamin Franklin got it right when he said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Just as you would take preventative measures to protect yourself from heart disease or diabetes, it pays to protect yourself from occupational hearing loss and hearing problems caused by exposure to loud music, power motors, and sport weapons.
Industrial workplace noises, gunfire, loud music, and other common, everyday sounds that are louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. Just how loud is 85 decibels? 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)
Intensities of Common Sounds in Decibels
|Sounds||Intensities||Permissible exposure time|
|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|
|Jet from 100 feet||135 dB|
|Gun shot||145 dB|
|12-gauge Shotgun||165 dB|
Who Needs Ear Protection at Work – YOU
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. As a result NIOSH recommends “all worker exposures to noise be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss. NIOSH also recommends a 3 dBA exchange rate so that every increase by 3 dBA doubles the amount of the noise and halves the recommended amount of exposure time.”
Additionally, NIOSH recommends a hearing loss prevention program that includes the use of hearing protection devices, periodic hearing tests and education for workers, along with administrative controls that include accurate record keeping, evaluations and audits.
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Ear Protection for Hunters
Hunting requires one to have the ability to hear very soft sounds, while still protecting the ear from the peak noise levels of a shot gun blast. Fortunately, hunters have many options for protection. Not only can they choose from custom or over-the-counter ear plugs or ear muffs, they can also choose protection devices that provide amplification, while reducing the sounds of gunfire to a safe level.
Ear Protection for Musicians
Professional musicians work in a high-decibel environment in which hearing loss, tinnitus, hyper-sensitivity to sound and sound distortion can result. Traditional earplugs will not work for the professional musician, as they reduce sound by muffling low-to-mid-range frequencies. Special musicians ear molds are available that can protect the musician’s ears from loud sounds without distorting what they hear. Many products are available that will even enhance the music experience.
Musician’s earplugs are a custom product, made individually for each user. Musicians practice and perform in a variety of different settings. They are exposed to high levels of sound, sometimes for long periods, and may require different amounts of protection depending on sound levels encountered during rehearsals and performance. Some musicians use one type of attenuator in one ear and one type in the other, depending on the source and location of the sound. The benefits of using musician’s earplugs include:
- Reduces sound levels evenly so that music and speech are clear and natural, not muffled as with other earplugs.
- Reduces risk of hearing damage for many noisy occupations and noisy venues, such as airshows, parades, athletic events and motor sports.
- Enhances the music experience for audiences while protecting hearing.
- Lets musicians hear their own instrument, as well as fellow musicians, more comfortably.
Ear Protection for Recreational Shooters
Up to 50% of all recreational shooters may suffer some degree of hearing loss of some kind. It is generally thought that loud noises in excess of 90 decibels are harmful to hearing over prolonged exposure. Most gunfire exceeds 130 decibels and requires reliable, quality hearing protection. Using ear protection can prevent needless and permanent damage to hearing.
Electronic earplugs enhance the sounds around you. For example, you can hear game movement while also reducing impulse sounds, such as gunfire, down to a safe level. This helps prevent damage to your hearing. Electronic earplugs are available in custom molds, as well as standard, less expensive alternatives.
Electronic Noise Suppression
These custom devices allow for normal hearing unless until a sudden loud sound is present. These devices will compress the sound to protect your hearing from sudden impact noise sources. This is the ideal option for either the hunter or shooter.
Ear Protection for Law Enforcement
If you are involved in law enforcement you undoubtedly know how important your sense of hearing is to being effective on the job. You may also have experienced a situation where 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 could result in irreversible hearing loss.
Ear Protection at Industrial Sites
Loud, constant sounds all day long at work can cause long-term hearing problems. Loud, sudden noises (gunfire, industrial noises, woodworking, motorcycles, loud music, motorized lawn equipment, noisy hobbies and other noises louder than 90 db) are more damaging to hearing than regular and extended exposure to loud sounds over a period of time. When properly fitted, earplugs can significantly reduce loud noises and prevent hearing damage and loss. Hearing protectors not properly fitted to the wearer’s ears do not effectively prevent damaging noises from penetrating the ear canal.
Now is the time to let hearing aids improve your hearing loss.