Being exposed to loud noises can result in
hearing loss. As the loudness of a sound
increases, the amount of time you can safely listen to the sound decreases. One
way to protect your hearing is to wear hearing protectors, which reduce the
loudness of the sound.
Hearing protectors are especially
important for those who work in harmful noise situations every day. Harmful
noise is any sound over 85
decibels. The noise found in the construction industry
and in machine shops is often at this volume. Wearing hearing protectors
increases the amount of time you can safely work in these types of
The two main types of hearing protectors are earplugs
Earplugs come in different sizes and should fit
snugly into the outer ear canal. For people who need them frequently (such as
people who are regularly exposed to job-related noise), they can be custom-made
for a better fit. You also can buy disposable earplugs.
cover both ears entirely. When they fit properly and are held in place by a
headband, they form an air-seal that reduces the volume of sound entering the
You can reduce sound by up to 30 decibels (dB) when you wear
well-fitted hearing protectors. They are most effective at reducing your total
noise exposure and preventing damage to your hearing when you wear them
continuously throughout the period of noise exposure. For example, if you work
8 hours a day in an environment with a harmful noise level (85 dB or more),
wear your hearing protection 8 hours a day.
reduce the loudness of all sounds. Although there has been some concern that
hearing protectors may make it more difficult to hear important sounds, such as
voices or machine sounds, you are generally able to adjust to the quieter sound
level without any problems hearing what you need to hear.
who already have hearing loss may find it harder to understand speech when they
are wearing hearing earplugs or earmuffs. But wearing proper protection
can help prevent more hearing loss.
For more information on the
workplace and hearing loss, contact the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA). OSHA has mandated hearing protection for people who are
exposed to certain noise levels at work. You can contact OSHA with questions on
workplace safety and health, including hearing loss, at 1-800-321-6742, or find
information at www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/index.html.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.