FAMILYHANDYMAN.COM SEPTEMBER 2019 25
Subtract 25 percent
from the manufac-
turer’s labeled NRR.
Subtract 50 per-
cent from the
Subtract 70 per-
cent from the
DIY & Your Hearing
3 Things You Must Know
- Most power tools do damage
OSHA requires hearing protection for extended exposure to
noise at 85 decibels or above, and most power tools, lawn
mowers and chain saws are louder than that.
Vickie Tuten, a member of the American Speech-Language-
Hearing Association and an audiologist with the U.S. Army, offers a
rule of thumb—if someone walked up to you and started talking
while you were working, would you have to turn the tool off to hear
them? If so, there’s a good chance it’s hazardous and you should
be wearing hearing protection.
- Plugs and muffs don’t work as labeled
How much hearing protection you need depends on two factors—
how loud your equipment is and how long you’re exposed to the
noise. Tuten says both earmuffs and earplugs work as long as you
wear them properly. With earmuffs, make sure the temple of your
protective goggles (or anything else) doesn’t break their seal. And
with earplugs, be sure to insert them according to the instructions
on the package.
When you purchase earmuffs or earplugs, they’ll have a noise
reduction rating (NRR) on the package. But you can’t simply sub-
tract that number from the decibels you’re exposed to. “That’s a
number derived under lab specifications with an expert fitter,”
Tuten says. NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health) recommends that the labeled NRRs (Noise Reduction
Ratings) be adjusted for real-world use as follows:
HOME SMARTSI HEALTH
To increase your protection, you can wear earplugs and earmuffs
together. Results vary depending on the products you choose, but
expect four to eight dB of additional protection.
- Every exposure does some damage
Tuten says a lot of people believe that a one-time exposure to loud
noise doesn’t matter. “That’s a false sense of security,” she says.
“Damage actually does often occur. It’s a cumulative kind of
damage.” Even if you’ve already lost some hearing, with protection
you can preserve the hearing you have left. “If you can keep the
loss at a mild level, that’s a win,” Tuten says.
Tool Decibels Needed Noise
CHAIN SAW 110 32
MITER SAW 109 31
BAND SAW 104 26
HEDGE TRIMMER 103 25
PRESSURE WASHER 100 22
TABLE SAW 93 15
AIR COMPRESSOR 92 14
The decibel scale is logarithmic, so,
for example, 85 dB is 15 times louder
than 70 dB. Many power tools are
loud enough to damage your hearing.
Here are a few examples from the
University of Florida’s Hearing