Hearing is one of the key senses, helping us to navigate, experience and enjoy the world around us, however it’s also a very delicate sense that can easily be damaged.
Usually, by the time people realise their hearing may have been impacted, the damage has already been done. That’s why it’s so important to protect your ears, if you want to stop preventable hearing loss later in life.
Why Is Ear Protection Important?
Exposure to loud noises can damage delicate structures within the ear. This can happen from brief, extremely-loud noises (such as an explosion, for example) or from prolonged exposure to loud noises like machinery or music.
Loud noises harm the hair cells in the ear, which can then result in hearing loss. This might be temporary, for example, noticing a dullness or ringing in your ears after a loud music concert, but after repeated exposure to loud noises, the damage can become permanent.
Once hearing is lost, it can’t be recovered, so prevention is crucial. Ear protectors or ear defenders guard ears against loud noises, to keep the wearer comfortable and also prevent damage to the ear and hearing loss.
When Should I Wear Ear Protection?
What one person considers ‘loud’ might not feel uncomfortable to someone else and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when noise becomes too loud. However, in terms of the law around noise regulation, 85 decibels is the point at which ear protection becomes essential.
But how do you know what 85 decibels sounds like? To help you translate this to real-life, here are some common activities that require ear protection.
Attending concerts or playing live music
A live concert will almost certainly be above 85 decibels. In fact, most will exceed 100 decibels. If you are going to be at a music concert for several hours, you should wear ear protection to prevent damage to your hearing. Equally, if you play live music in a band, you will regularly be exposed to noise loud enough to damage your hearing, so it’s crucial that you use ear defenders when practising, rehearsing or playing.
Not only are waves extremely loud, but surfing also presents a risk to ears from extreme temperatures and from the water itself, which can cause ear infections and damage your hearing permanently. If you regularly surf or swim, then earplugs are essential.
Using power tools
The link between power tools and hearing damage is well documented. In the workplace, health and safety dictates that ear protection should be worn when using power tools, however, even if you’re tackling a DIY project at home, you should protect your ears from the noise of power tools.
Electric drills, saws and sanders all create noise well above 85 decibels so be sure to always wear ear defenders when using power tools.
Using garden machinery like lawn mowers can damage your hearing in the same way as using construction equipment and power tools. Grass trimmers and leaf blowers are also loud enough to harm your ears, so if you’re planning a spot of gardening, ensure you’re wearing ear protection first.