Hearing Protection FAQs

Hearing Protection

How do I go about protecting my hearing?

There are a few simple ways to protect yourself from Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Small adjustments like turning down your MP3 player by a couple of notches and wearing hearing protection whilst at work will go a long way in the battle to keep your hearing safe.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has stated that noise levels above 105dB can damage your hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes each week.

However, even lower levels between 85dB and 90dB can cause permanent damage if you’re exposed to them for long periods every day.

Here are a few tips that will help protect your hearing:

1. Wear ear protection

If you work in construction or around heavy machinery, chances are you will be exposed to loud noises regularly. The longer you are exposed to noise levels above 80dB, the greater your chances of developing NIHL. A simple way of combatting hearing loss is to wear hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. If possible, get away from the loud noise as often as you can.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 protects staff who are exposed to loud noises in the workplace. The regulations state that workers must wear hearing protection if the daily average noise levels reach 85dB. If you use power saws, drills or any other type of noisy equipment, wear earmuffs or earplugs. If you are experiencing high levels of noise, speak to your HR department.

2. Turn your music down

Try not to listen to your music at high volumes. MP3 players and iPods have a maximum volume of around 110 dB which is extremely loud. If you are finding it uncomfortable to listen to your music, that’s a sign your ears are telling you to turn it down.

The NHS recommends that you opt for the 60:60 rule. This means you should listen to your music at 60% of the MP3 player’s maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.

If you are listening to your stereo in the car at loud volumes, this can also cause hearing loss. By listening to loud music in a confined space, you are increasing the risk of hearing damage. Enjoy it, just turn it down a little.

3. Use noise cancelling headphones

If you can hear external noises whilst listening to your music, you may be tempted to turn the volume up. This could potentially damage your hearing. A good idea would be to use noise cancelling headphones or the old-school ear muff type headphones. These headphones block out background noise more effectively than inner ear style headphones, which means you can listen to your music clearly at a lower volume.

4.Use earplugs at concerts and gigs

If you enjoy live music, take earplugs with you. This way you can reduce noise levels anywhere between 15 and 35dB. Bar/venue staff may not always have free earplugs available, so it’s a good idea to invest in a pair and keep them with you. Don’t worry about not being able to hear the band properly – if you invest in a pair of good quality earplugs, they can actually make live music sound better by drowning out white noise.

5. Give your ears a rest

If you have been exposed to loud noise, give them time to recover. Your ears need at least 16 hours to recover properly after spending as little as 2 hours immersed in 100dB sound – for example if you have been to a nightclub or gig. The more you reduce this recovery time the more you put yourself at risk of hearing loss.

These are just a few tips on how to reduce the risk of hearing loss. Click here to see our great range of ear protection.

What does SNR mean?

SNR stands for Single Number Rating. It is a rating system set up by the EU to show the amount of protection earplugs provide.

What does dB mean?

dB, or decibels, is the unit that sound is measured in, and gives you an indication of the pressure your ears are under. Every 3 dB added doubles the sound, but you may not even notice. Every 10dB added increases the sound energy by ten, and adding 20dB increases it by a hundred.

Are there particular noise levels that will damage my hearing?

Many of the noises we are exposed to on a daily basis can contribute to hearing loss, so it’s vital we take action to prevent damage to our ears.

Those who work in certain industries including construction, engineering, food & drink and entertainment are especially at risk of developing Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) as they are surrounded by loud machinery, the constant hum of crowds and loud music for extended periods of time.

Any noises that are very loud and last for a long time can damage your hearing.

Here is an example of decibel levels:

  • 30dB – Quiet bedroom at night
  • 40dB – Quiet library
  • 60dB – Normal conversation
  • 75dB – Busy Street
  • 80dB –  Passing lorry
  • 85dB+ Any continued exposure to noise at this level will cause damage
  • 85dB – Lawn mower/heavy traffic:
  • 90dB – Forklift truck
  • 98dB  – Hand drill
  • 100dB – Motorcycle (riding)
  • 110dB – Rock Concert/Nightclub
  • 110 – 115dB – Maximum volume of an iPod
  • 120dB – Human threshold of discomfort
  • 120dB – Chainsaw/Ambulance Siren
  • 130 dB – Human Threshold of pain
  • 130dB – Jet engine

There are two factors that increase the risk of hearing loss: volume and length of exposure.

Any continued exposure to noises over 85 dB will cause damage to your hearing.

A sure sign that you have been exposed to noise that’s too loud is ringing in the ears, or a feeling like you have cotton wool in your ears. If you are finding that these symptoms are becoming commonplace throughout your day, arrange an appointment with one of our Hearing Aid Audiologists as you may be suffering from hearing loss.

An increase in decibel levels, however minor, can have serious consequences. If you are listening to your iPod at full volume all day, you may cause irreparable damage to your hearing – turning it down just a few notches can make a big difference. In addition, if you operate power tools without hearing protection, you are also at risk of damaging your hearing.

For more tips on how to avoid Noise Related Hearing Loss see our FAQ page on how to protect your hearing.

How does hearing damage happen?

Within the inner ear is an organ called the cochlea. Situated inside the cochlea are a number of tiny hair cells that receive the sound signals entering the ear and pass them on to the brain.  Exposure to noises louder than 85dB for a prolonged period of time wears these hair cells down, causing the sounds they pick up to become muffled. The higher the dB of the sound, the quicker your hearing will be damaged. If you are exposed to noise that reaches 85dB, it takes 8 hours to constitute a danger to your hearing. The louder the sound, the quicker it takes. 95dB takes 45 minutes, 100dB 15 minutes, 105dB 5 minutes, 110dB under 2 minutes, and 115 dB can affect your hearing in less than 30 seconds.