If you’re serious about protecting your hearing, you know you need to use ear protection. But when? While you can get super scientific about it, there’s a simple way to approach hearing protection.
When it comes to hearing damage, there are all sorts of scientific ways to approach quantifying it. If you’re into that sort stuff, you could wade through volumes of OSHA studies and documentation, read up about exposure over time-based on decibel levels, and so on.
Once your hearing is damaged, it’s damaged for good, so you might as well play it safe. How should you play it extra safe? Here’s an easy-to-remember way. Any time you’re in a situation where you need to raise your voice to be heard, you’re probably somewhere you need hearing protection.
In fact, even though we just joked about OSHA documentation, they have some pretty straight forward publications that spell out safety guidelines for workers. From their guide on protecting yourself from noise in construction, they offer similar raise-your-voice guidelines:
When a sound level meter is not available, you should use the 2-to-3 foot rule: Stand about an arm’s length away from your coworker: If you have to raise your voice to be heard 2-3 feet away, you should assume that the sound level is at or above 85 dBA.
Mowing the lawn? Hearing protection. Concert? Hearing protection. Really loud bar? Even if there’s no band rocking out, if you’re raising your voice it’s too loud. Vacuuming? You guessed it—even though most people would never think to put earplugs or muffs on when vacuuming, it’s something you need to raise your voice over. Power tools? You bet, pop in some plugs (and safety glasses for good measure).
While plain old foam or silicone earplugs are great for yard work (and we buy them by the container), our go-to daily earplugs that we keep on our keychain are the Etymotic High Fidelity concert earplugs. They’re perfect for protecting your ears from most noise. And if you keep them on your keychain or purse, you’re never stuck wincing in a loud movie theatre or listening to construction noise outside your office window.