When Is Hearing Protection Required?

This blog has been reviewed and approved by a hearing care professional.

The safest level of sound for noise exposure is less than 70 decibels (dBA). Anything above 85 dBA may need hearing protection to avoid potential hearing loss over time. Everyday noises over 85 dBA can still impair your hearing health. Hearing protection can reduce the noise exposure level and risk of getting hearing loss.1 
The effectiveness of hearing protection is greatly reduced when the hearing protection is not worn correctly. Even if hearing protection is removed for only short periods of time, when exposed to loud noises hearing damage can occur.

Hearing Protection for Everyday Sounds

In our everyday life there are some things that we do which could contribute to hearing damage, due to their volume. Items that we use that can exceed 85 dBA include:
Earbuds or headphones: At full volume most devices can reach up to 105 dB, but a safe range to maintain is around 75-80dB. 
Construction tools: Sound levels can reach 110-140 dB.
Lawn mowers, leaf-blowers & snow blowers: Can reach sound levels of 85-100 dB.2
To learn more about noises that could damage your hearing, check out our blog post. It covers 5 common loud noises and what we can do to protect our hearing from these items.

What You Can Do About Noise in Your Workplace

We can also experience loud noise that goes above 85 dBA in our workplace depending on the jobs that we have. Some jobs that are at higher risk of getting hearing loss include first responders, railway workers, construction workers and more.3 But what can you do about the noise in your workplace while protecting your hearing?
If your employer falls under federal jurisdiction, Part II of the Canada Labour Code provides protection from health hazards in your workplace. Part VII, "Levels of Sound", of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations deals with the problem of exposure to high levels of sound in the workplace. Every employer under federal jurisdiction has to comply with these Regulations.
If your employer does not fall under federal jurisdiction, we recommend you contact local authorities. They are who will be responsible for occupational health and safety protection.

What Type of Hearing Protection Is Available?

When it comes to hearing protection there are different styles available.

Custom earplugs: These earplugs are custom fit to the individuals ear canals and may be made out of waterproof material.
Expandable foam earplugs: These earplugs are made from a formable material which is designed to expand and conform to the shape of each person’s ear canal.
Earmuffs: These work to block out noise by completely covering the outer ear.
Canal caps: These often resemble earplugs on a flexible plastic or metal band and may be formable or pre-molded.

It is important to choose the type of protection that is right for you and the levels you may experience in the workplace.

What Are the Advantages of Custom Earplugs?

Some advantages of custom earplugs include:
Small and easily carried 
Convenient to use with other personal protection equipment (can be worn with earmuffs) 
More comfortable for long-term wear in hot, humid work areas 
Convenient for use in confined work areas
Soft and comfortable – personalized for your ears
May be waterproof
Will last a few years unless ears change – better for the environment
May be covered under your insurance plan if prescribed by your physician
Contact your local HearCANADA centre to request an appointment to get fitted for your custom earplugs.

When to Start Using Hearing Protection

If you are going to be around loud noise levels, you should always make sure to have proper hearing protection to prevent hearing loss. If you are already showing signs and symptoms of hearing loss it is already too late to prevent it, but it can help prevent further hearing loss. Here are signs to look for:
Difficulty hearing high pitches or soft sounds
Difficulty following conversations
Mishearing or mixing up words
Difficulty distinguishing conversation in noisy environments
Feeling tired and stressed after social outings
If you think you or a loved one are showing signs of hearing loss, it’s a good idea to have your hearing assessed. You can contact us at any time to request a full hearing assessment at your nearest HearCANADA centre

The Takeaway

The safest level of sound for noise exposure is less than 70 dBA and any noise above 85 dBA may need hearing protection, to avoid potential hearing loss over time.4

1 = “Personal Protective Equipment.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. April 5, 2023. Accessed on April 14, 2023. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/prevention/ppe/ear_prot.html
2 = Walker, Erica, Jamie L Banks. “Characteristics of Lawn and Garden Equipment Sound: A Community Pilot Study.” National Library of Medicine. November 3, 2017. Accessed on April 14, 2023.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6707732/
3 = “20 High Volume Jobs with Risk of Hearing Loss.” Bloom Hearing Specialists. Accessed on April 14, 2023. https://bloomhearing.com/hearing-tips/20-high-volume-jobs-with-a-risk-of-hearing-loss/
4 = “Loud Noise Dangers.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Accessed on April 14, 2023. https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/loud-noise-dangers/