You may be familiar with the terms “wear-time” or “wearing time” when it comes to hearing protection, but what does it actually mean? We wanted to break it down to help ensure you understand just why these terms are so important when it comes to protecting your hearing.
A quick reminder: Hearing protection is mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels (dB) averaged over eight working hours, or an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) gives us the sound level rating of a given hearing protection device (HPD), measured in dB.
It’s about time – and decibels
The key to adequate hearing protection is compliance – and that means keeping your hearing protection in your ear the entire time OSHA says you are in an at-risk zone.
Taking your protection out for short intervals during your shift exposes your ears to dangerous levels of noise. And exposure for even a short period of time can be detrimental – especially if you get into this habit over time.
Take this example: If you remove your hearing protection for just five minutes in an industrial noise zone during an eight-hour workday, you lose 40% of your daily protection.
Now think about this over the course of an entire workday. If you remove your hearing protection for an accumulated 30 minutes over the eight-hour timetable, your actual hearing protection on a 30 dB plug is just 12 dB.
This equates to an astounding 60% reduction in hearing protection in exchange for just one-half hour of exposure time, even if you remain compliant during the other 7.5 hours of industrial noise exposure.
This is why compliance matters
In order to trust the NRR rating on a product, hearing protection must be worn for the full duration of your exposure to hazardous noise levels. If not worn for the proper time day after day, this type of non-compliance in the example can equate to accumulated hearing damage and other health issues – and can even lead to devastating hearing loss later in life.
How much protection do you really need?
When choosing your hearing protection, remember these two essential criteria:
- Make sure you understand the noise levels in your workplace and the attenuation level you need for protection.
- Check how that specific hearing device is rated per the rating method used (NRR).
Make sure to follow the HPD manufacturer’s instructions for proper fit and wear-time to help ensure hearing is protected as effectively as possible. Remember that the calculated attenuation value reflects the realistic value only to the extent that the protectors are properly fitted and worn. Learn more about proper fit here.
HexArmor® can help
There are several factors to consider when choosing which earplug or earmuff technology is right for you, which is why HexArmor® offers a variety of hearing safety information as well as varying levels of hearing protection so you can be properly protected for your specific application and environment.