When do employees really need hearing protection?

EarplugsWe get asked this question a lot: When do my employees need hearing protection? How do I know?

Great question! Well if they’re always asking you to repeat your questions or statements, it may be too late!

But let’s look at when you and they truly need protection.

When Hearing Loss Starts

Hearing loss can occur with a loud quick burst, like an explosion. But most hearing loss occurs over a long period of time exposed to a moderate amount of noise.

90dB over an eight-hour period for many months, to be specific. This is referred to as “time-weighted average,” or TWA.

So what does 90dB sound like? Here are some examples.

  • City traffic inside a car = 85dB
  • Hand drill running = 98dB
  • Power Mower at 3′ = 107dB
  • Motor Cycle = 100dB
  • Power Saw at 3′ = 110dB


OSHA states that hearing protection must be supplied when the TWA over an eight-hour period is 85dB and above.

Most hearing protection (ear plugs or ear muffs) reduce dB levels from 21dB to 32dB. You can have a good idea of what you db level is or you can have a professional and have a reading done.

So Let’s Do Some Math

Ear muffs have a reduces noise level by 25dB, so….
-25db =
85db (not enough protection over an eight-hour exposure)

Foam ear plugs inserted correctly will reduce the db level between 28-32dbs.

-32db =
78db (well within the acceptable dB level — you and your employee are protected)

Make sense?

The reduction amount is clearly marked through a “Noise Reduction Rating” (“NRR”) on all ear plug and ear muff packaging.

Please feel free to call us with any questions, though, if you need more guidance. We will gladly visit your location to assist with any assessment you may require.

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