Ear protection for gardening is not a joke. Whether you're the proud owner of a large garden or a small one, you will almost certainly have some sort of power tool you use in your garden. From lawn mowers to leaf blowers and from power drills to chain saws all are loud and can damage your hearing, especially if used over a period of time. We have a look at some of the common ones and how you can protect your hearing from damage.
Why do I need Ear Protection for Gardening?
As you can see from the picture the recommended limit for hearing is 87 dB. But you must also take into account that this is for a limited time. For example, exposure to a noise of 109 dB for 2 minutes will cause damage whereas noises up to 90dB can be taken for 8 hours.
Sometimes you'll know if you've damaged your hearing by a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears called tinnitus. Unfortunately you don't always get this warning and the only time you'll realise that your hearing is damaged is later in life when your hearing stops working properly.
When it's a neighbour making a horrible racket then you could take action if the noise is over the permitted limits when heard from your residence. From the UK government website: "The permitted noise level using A-weighted decibels (the unit environmental noise is usually measured in) is:
- 34 dBA(decibels adjusted) if the underlying level of noise is no more than 24 dBA
- 10 dBA above the underlying level of noise if this is more than 24 dBA"
How loud does a garden tool get?
Lawn mowers are the most common source of garden noise especially just when you've settled down for a nap in your garden on a Sunday afternoon. A typical lawn mower subjects the user to 88–94 dB and should be operated only with some sort of ear protection.
Leaf blowers generate between 95-105 dB, thereby producing a greatly disturbing sound. The sounds of air entering and leaving the blower are at relatively high frequencies. Due to the high volume of air, it makes almost as much noise drawing air in, as it does coming out. Your ears can only take noises of 100 dB for 15 minutes before causing damage.
Chain Saws are luckily not common in most gardens, but their noise levels are extremely high running to about 109dB. Noises at this level can damage your hearing in 2 minutes.
Although most people don't think drills are really loud (92-95 dB), they are loud enough that you should wear hearing protection. Damage to the ears is a function of both decibels and time. Drilling many holes or using the drill for other applications, such as driving screws, results in long exposure times where hearing protection should be worn.
Ear protection devices, such as plugs and earmuffs are a good option to control exposures to noise during garden work. But the effectiveness of hearing protection will be significantly reduced if they do not fit correctly or if you don't wear them.
Advantages and Disadvantages of different types of ear protection
Following are the advantages and disadvantages of the most commonly used hearing protection devices:
Roll down plugs - can be very comfortable. They are disposable so you don't have to clean them. However, they are the most difficult to wear correctly and need clean hands to insert. You don't want to introduce bacteria into your ear canal from dirty hands.
Premoulded plugs - are easy to insert, come in different sizes, and it is relatively safe to put them in with dirty hands, but we don't recommend that you do. They are also disposable or reusable. Nevertheless, sometimes it can be difficult to get a good fit and plugs can be uncomfortable.
Ear muffs - are the easiest to use and can attach to a hard hat. Additionally, they are reusable, but can be uncomfortable and may feel heavy. Surprisingly most ear defenders do not offer any better protection than ear plugs.
Banded ear caps - are easy to put on and take off. They are disposable and it is safe to insert them with dirty hands. However, a good fit may be difficult and the band may put pressure on your head.
Our preferred method of hearing protection at HearingDirect are the Moldex Sparkplugs Foam Ear Plugs. These are super-soft earplugs made from extra-light foam. They have a noise reduction rating of 33dB and therefore can reduce the noise level of a lawn mower to around 55–61dB which is well below the dangerous limit of 87dB.
Why not take a test
If you're worrying about your hearing then our free and quick online hearing test will help you check. You should continue to wear ear protection for gardening whatever the result of the test, you don't want any damage to get worse.
About Hearing Direct
We are one of the world's leading hearing aid specialists. HearingDirect offers a wide range of affordable products, and information resources to help improve the quality of life for the hard of hearing.
- Hearing aids,
- Accessories such as earplugs,
- and amplified devices such as super loud alarm clocks and amplified phones.
Author: Stuart Canterbury
Stuart joined the hearing aid industry just at the start of the digital revolution in the mid 1990s. He was part of a team that transformed one of the minor manufacturers in to a major player in both production and retail of high technology hearing aids. This journey included working on public / private programmes to accelerate the uptake of high technology hearing aids across a wide distribution. This passion for improving the value and access to good quality hearing lead to the foundation of HearingDirect. After almost a decade and hundreds of thousands of customers we are starting to establish online sales as a practical, cost-effective channel to provide great hearing to all those who need help.