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What is Hearing Protection?
Hearing protection is equipment that limits or lowers the intensity of sounds reaching an individual’s ear. Hearing protection is an important tool in hindering hearing loss or damage. Exposure to repetitive and loud noises from machinery or environment at a worksite can damage sensitive structures within the inner ear which can result in Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) (or hearing damage) over time.
Importance of Hearing Protection
Hearing protection is worn to reduce and limit the noise reaching the wearer’s ear to protect against hearing damage. The best way to prevent hearing damage is to remove or reduce the source of the noise. However, in most cases these preventative measures are not plausible. In such environments, workers should wear hearing protection to pare down the intensity or amount of noise entering the ears.
There are many types of hearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) that workers can wear to reduce the lasting effects of a noisy environment.
Sound is measured in units of decibels. Sounds at or below 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) won't cause hearing loss. A loud noise or long or frequent exposures to sounds at or above 85 dBA can cause hearing damage. Ratings for commonly known sounds include:
- Normal conversation: 60 to 70 dBA
- Lawnmowers: 80 to 100 dBA
- Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80 to 110 dBA
- Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts: 94 to 110 dBA
- Sirens or emergency vehicles: 110 to 129 dBA
- Fireworks show: 140 to 160 dBA
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers be required to wear hearing protection when engaging in work that exposes them to noise that equals or exceeds 85 dBA. A good way to know if a noise is too loud is if you need to shout or yell to be heard by another individual within an arm's length away.