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If you’re someone who works with heavy and loud equipment, then you probably know about how important it is to make sure that you’re as protected as you can be. Not being adequately protected can cause a lot of health problems, including hearing loss.
This is where hearing protectors with a high NRR rating come in. What is NRR, you may ask? This abbreviation stands for noise reduction rating. The higher the NRR, the more noise the equipment will block out. This means that you’ll be safe from the loud noises in your working environment.
Whether you’re someone who works in such an environment or you’re an employer, it’s important to know about the NRR and decibels. We will discuss both in more detail in this article.
Why Hearing Protection is Important
Some people may wonder why this is so important. Your hearing is precious and there are laws in place to make sure that workers can have the most protection possible.
If you happen to be working in an environment where you have to work with noisy equipment, the law usually requires that you wear something to protect your hearing. OSHA has defined that anyone who will be working with noises louder than 85 decibels over the course of 8 hours needs to use protection.
It’s preferable that you try to work in an environment with as little dangerous noise as possible, but this is not an option for some people. And, if you’re someone who likes rock music, for example, you may want to avoid going to rock concerts too often because those tend to have the highest decibels out of all loud environments.
Exposing yourself to loud noise too often can cause you to experience severe hearing loss. If you pay attention to the NRR and make sure to get the highest rating possible, you’ll be protecting yourself more.
You absolutely want to make sure that you’re doing the most to protect your hearing. Most hearing loss is considered to be irreversible.
What NRR is
This is where NRR comes in. Noise reduction rating is a number given to a hearing protector based on how many decibels of protection someone will get when using the protector.
These protection devices have a rating between 0 and around 33, with 33 providing the most protection.
If you want to know how much protection you’ll get against loud noises, take the NRR rating and subtract seven from it. Then, divide by 2. This will be the number of decibels that you will be exposed to as a result of wearing the protection.
Another important thing to note is that you need to be sure that you’re wearing the protection correctly. If you don’t put ear plugs in exactly the way the instructions state, for example, you won’t be receiving as much protection and will be exposed to higher decibels as a result.
It also depends on what kind of activity you will be participating in. For example, if you just want something to help you block out surrounding noises, you won’t need equipment with as high of an NRR rating as someone who works in a factory with loud machinery.
What is DB rating?
When reviewing how loud the environment that you will be in is, you may see something called a DB rating.
You may also see this when you’re evaluating the best equipment to use, for example, you may see that a pair of headphones with an NRR rating of a certain number can protect against noises with a DB rating of another number.
The DB rating is simply the number of decibels that a certain noise is.
What are decibels?
When talking about sounds and loud sounds, in particular, it is important to understand what decibels are.
To put it simply, we use decibels to measure how loud something is. For example, someone speaking is 60 decibels, and a gunshot is around 140 decibels. Anything that is louder than 85 decibels can cause problems.
There are very tiny hairs in your ears that allow you to hear. These can pick up virtually every noise you can think of, from the tiniest whisper to the loudest rock concerts. These hairs are also highly sensitive, which is important to know if you want to protect your hearing.
If you’re constantly being exposed to loud noises, then these tiny hairs can be severely damaged, which will ultimately lead to hearing loss. And most forms of hearing loss are considered to be irreversible.
If you’re someone who works in a loud environment or otherwise will have to be exposed to sounds with high decibels for about 8 hours on a daily basis, you have to take matters into your own hands and make sure you protect your ear health.
Understanding how decibels work and what numbers will be dangerous for you is important for wanting to understand how to protect your hearing.
NRR vs. DB
Now, you might be wondering what the difference between NRR and decibels is. Noise reduction vs. decibels is actually a pretty simple concept to understand.
For one, decibels are the units of measurement that are used to be able to measure how loud a particular sound is. In order to be able to understand the NRR, you will need to be able to understand this.
Most of the noises that you will be exposed to on a regular basis are pretty quiet and low in terms of decibel ratings. A decibel rating of around zero means that the area you’re in is silent.
However, if you’re being exposed to loud noises, that number gets higher and higher. This goes until the loudest sound possible, which you will be able to hear at a rock concert.
Simply being exposed to such loud noises for a few hours won’t hurt you. But, if you’re someone who is working in a factory or in any other place where you’ll be exposed to such volumes for several hours at a time every day, you’ll need to consider your options.
And this is where the NRR comes in. Noise reduction ratings are important for hearing protection. The number of decibels the noise you will be exposed to is can help you to determine how high of an NRR you want.
Hearing protection with higher NRR will help you to block out the loudest sounds. If you simply want to block out surrounding noise on public transportation, for example, then you won’t need to use protection with as high of an NRR.
Understanding the connection and the difference between NRR and decibels is important for being able to protect your ear health as best as you can.
Now, let’s talk about how to make the most out of your NRR equipment.
Make the Most out of Your Equipment
Since you now know how important hearing protection is and what NRR is, you also need to know how to make sure that you get the ample amount of protection from your equipment.
As we mentioned, you will first need to determine how many decibels of sound you will be exposed to. If you’re going to constantly be exposed to very loud sounds, then you’re obviously going to have to use equipment with a higher NRR.
Noise reduction ratings range from 0 to around 33. You would want to use 33 for painfully loud sounds. Take the decibel rating, subtract seven from it, and divide by two in order to know how many decibels you’ll be exposed to.
Make sure that you’re also wearing the equipment properly. If you’re using electronic ear plugs, for example, and the instructions tell you to insert them in your ear canal & set them at a certain setting, then you have to do as you’re instructed. Otherwise, you won’t be as protected.
And, if you’ve already experienced hearing loss due to a lack of protection, you’ll want to use equipment with the highest NRR possible to prevent any further hearing loss.
If you want to be able to adequately protect yourself and your hearing, it is important to educate yourself on what NRR and decibels are.
Once again, decibels are the units of measurement used to measure how loud a particular noise is on a scale of 0 to around 150. Zero is almost total silence, whereas 150 is the loudest rock concert or fireworks.
When you want to see how potentially dangerous something will be for your hearing, you will need to see how many decibels it is. Anything that is below 85 decibels is fine for you to be exposed to on a regular basis.
For example, your basic conversations and most everyday activities won’t cause you to have hearing loss due to loudness.
However, if you’re constantly being exposed to noises above 85 decibels, then you will need to consider using hearing protection with a higher noise protection rating.
It is absolutely important to be able to understand just how necessary protecting your hearing is and all you can do to maintain the quality of your hearing. Most cases of hearing loss are irreversible, so make sure to protect yourself before it’s too late.