Sound is measured in decibels (dB). 85dB is the noise level at which hearing damage can begin to occur. So what does 85dB sound like? Routine activities like sitting in traffic, blending a smoothie, even blow-drying your hair. Prolonged exposure to loud noise also increases your hearing damage risk.
For most people, the unprotected exposure threshold for 85dB is 8 hours in a 24-hour period. That means you can spend 8 hours in an environment with a noise level of 85dB with relatively no risk. However, adding other noisy activities like shooting, live music or motor sports on top of that compounds your risk.
Every 3dB over the 85dB safety threshold cuts your safe listening time in half. For instance, operating a hand drill with a noise level of 100dB without ear protection means you have just 15 minutes of safe listening time over 24 hours. And regular exposure of more than 1 minute to noise at or above 110dB puts you at risk for permanent hearing loss.
Irreparable hearing loss isn’t the only risk of not using ear protection. Tinnitus, a condition that causes a ringing in the ears, commonly occurs after exposure to noise and can become permanent. In addition to being damaging, loud noise can be distracting. Losing your focus in construction sites and other loud environments can be a danger in itself.