by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man asked:
Because I have a lot of grass to mow I spend 2 to 4 hours per week on a riding mower. My question is how best to protect what is left of my hearing. I believe my best options are high quality ear muffs or noise canceling ear muffs. (I no longer use foam plugs in the ear canal because they tend to push wax deep into the ear and form a plug that is difficult to remove.) Is there any research on this subject to guide me?
In order to protect your hearing, all you need to do is bring down the loud sounds to 80 dB or less.When wearing ear muffs with a 30 dB rating, you could be in noise as loud as 110 dB. Lawn mowers and tractors produce sounds in the neighborhood of 100 dB (more or less depending on the model).
Therefore, good ear muffs with a protection rating of about 30 dB would be more than adequate. They would bring sounds down to about 70 dB which is not damaging to your ears at all.
Incidentally, my ear muffs work so well for me that I can’t even hear my motor running. (I use a walk behind mower.)