Choosing hearing protection
Radio interview source: Dennis Murphy, Extension Safety Specialist, Penn State University
Dennis Murphy is an extension safety specialist at Penn State University. He says the effect on hearing depends on the volume and intensity of the noise, and the duration. OSHA considers sound measured at 85-decibels or higher to be damaging to the ear drum. Running a table saw or operating a tractor without a cab can reach 100 decibels.
He says choosing the right ear protection depends on the person, and what the activity is. "Ear muffs provide more protection and are the easiest to use because they just completely cover the ear. But, of course they can be hot and uncomfortable sometimes so a lot of people want to insert some type of ear plug," Murphy says. "If you take the time to buy the kinds of earplugs or the size of earplug that fits you well, and you take the time to put it in properly, then you can get good protection and that certainly may be enough protection."
Ear protection devices are ranked with a Noise Reduction Rating. An NRR-31 rating means that noise will be reduced by as much as 31 decibels under ideal conditions. For example, if you're running a table saw at 100 decibels, the plugs would reduce the effective sound level to 69 decibels.
Murphy recommends testing your activity with a sound meter so you know the decibel levels are and can choose the right hearing protection. "You can buy them yourself, but usually you may want to have a consultant that specializes in industrial hygiene safety activities. They would have those and would know how to run them the best."
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