Its Safety week so for my contribution I want to talk about hearing protection. I am an amateur woodworker who like many hobby shop furniture makers I use power tools. Which is why its a good topic to read up on for safety in your shop.
Here recently I had been having vertigo which as it turns out has nothing to do with my hearing. However in having my problem I was referred to a ENT specialist. I had a hearing/balance test and found my hearing is fine and my balance system is working the way it should. Unfortunately my vertigo turned out to be something else entirely, the doctor thinks its migraines. Before I got the appointment I did some reading. I found that loud noises can be more detrimental to your health than just simple hearing loss. Also that I need to watch how much of the loud noises I am subjected to.
Just to start with use of hearing protection is a good idea. I found in some of my reading that Loud noises just attributed to the hearing of them is linked to hearing loss for starters, big surprise. It is also linked to vertigo in some people because loud noises can damage the inner ear and mess with the system that your balance is based on. It is known that loud noises and consistent exposure can cause irritability as well. It causes Tinnitus which is a general ringing in the ears. I have noticed on occasion I would leave the shop to go into the house and have my ears ringing and buzzing.
Also physiological effects of loud noises due to long exposures are apparent now as well. Loud noises can effect the rhythm of the heart increase blood pressure etc. These effects are through the exposure to the loud noise in general and not through the ears so hearing protection doesn't offer protection in those areas. Limiting the amount of time around the noise is key. This is offering an argument that we give up power tools to the die hard hand tool users out there.
On all noise reduction products there is a number listed on the packaging. The Noise Reduction Rating(NRR) tells you how much sound the product reduces. For instance I use a set of foam plugs with a solid plastic band on them so when you take them out you can just hang it on your neck. These reduce the Noise level by 23 decibels. If I am being subjected to high levels at 80 then 23 reduces to 57 decibels. Which is above quiet but in acceptable ranges. When I looked at the various products offered at the local home store the disposable had about the best rating around 29 to 32 decibels. The headphone type available I saw offered about 20 to 22. Found these were as close i could get to finding the ones I have. There are products available that reduce noise by electronic means but I didn't research them before writing this so I do not have any information on them.
My experience as of late has made me aware even though my problem wasn't with the loud noises that I need to take them seriously. In all I would say use hearing protection at all times and try limiting the amount of time you are exposed to the sounds for your own health's sake. For further reading I am posting a link for you to read and get caught up on all that loud noises do over time. Link