For many people with hearing loss, hearing protection is a big deal. It’s important to protect whatever level of hearing ability you still have. Our Hearing Protection Series of blog posts takes an in-depth look at hearing protection.
The best way to protect your hearing is by avoiding loud sounds. Sometimes this can be a matter of personal choices, like turning down the music, but sometimes we can’t avoid noise—or we don’t want to. While hearing protective devices (HPDs) are required in a loud workplace, they’re optional at a loud concert or in a noisy stadium. Here’s why we should wear them there.
Let’s start with the two kinds of HPDs. Ear plugs go inside the ears; ear coverings go outside, like ear muffs. Both attenuate, or reduce, noise before it reaches the inner ear. (Attenuation usually caps out in the mid 30-dB range; read why here.)
In the United States, loud environments are governed by standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These standards incorporate both volume and length of exposure. According to OSHA, a worker may be exposed to 90 dB per eight-hour day, but for every 5 dB increase, exposure time must be halved. For example, a worker’s exposure to 100 dB is limited to 2 hours.
So, what about noise in other environments? A power saw can be as loud as 110 decibels; a rock concert as much as 120. In 2013, Seattle Seahawks fans proudly broke a Guinness World Record by achieving a noise level of 137.6 decibels in their stadium. By OSHA standards, a person should only be exposed to this noise level for about 48 seconds per day.
Fortunately, there are some excellent hearing protection options available. Some types soften only very loud sounds, but still allow the wearer to hear conversations. This site provides in-depth reviews of several brands of ear plugs.
Protecting our hearing is critical, and awareness is the first step.