Most homeowners have an impression that electric mowers are not too loud. Hence, they do not see the need to protect their ears.
If you happen to share this feeling then you are wrong. The sound of a lawn mower can reach up to 100 decibels – equivalent to the noise level of a chainsaw!
Ear protection keeps you safe from flying debris and the mower’s annoying noise. So, if you are wondering whether should you wear ear protection while mowing? then the answer should be pretty straight.
Should You Wear Ear Protection While Mowing
Yes, you need to wear ear protection while mowing! Although electric mowers have quiet engines, they possess rapidly spinning blades that produce a loud and roaring hum, about 75 to 80 decibels. This noise level is just below the 85-decibel limit set by the Occupational Safety and Heal Administration. Thus, you may lose some of your hearing over time.
Even so, the decision to have ear protection depends on the lawn mowing equipment. For instance, you do not need to cover your ears when using a reel mower.
However, ensure that you confirm that the sound is within the recommended range. Also, please read through this article for more insight on lawn mowing and ear protection.
Can a Lawn Mower Cause Hearing Damage?
Chores like mowing the lawn may appear common and harmless. But the loud sound the lawn mower produces can be harmful to your ears.
And you are safer not taking the chore lightly. We measure sound in decibels, and anything over85 decibels, like heavy traffic, can cause hearing damage after eight hours.
In addition, continual exposure to such sound will lead to total hearing loss. Worse still, any exposure to sounds over 140 decibels causes immediate hearing damage.
Therefore, it is prudent to always measure the sound before getting comfortable mowing. Also, it is possible to know when the sound is higher than the set limit.
For instance, check whether you need to raise your voice to get another person’s attention. If yes, the surrounding sound totals more than the safe 85 decibels and harms your hearing.
Lawn mowers and hair dryers can go up to 90 decibels. Well, this attribute may appear advantageous as the appliance will do more work.
But the sound can harm your ears in just two hours. This aspect is threatening to landscapers and hairdressers who work with these loud noises all the time.
However, they can deal with the scenario by having ear protection and taking frequent breaks. Also, three minutes are a safe maximum duration for continuous 100-decibel noise.
Interestingly, a rock concert with up to 110 decibels of sound can lead to hearing loss in 45 minutes. In addition, the louder sound gets, the less time they need to inflict damage, regardless of the appliance.
On top of that, let us debunk some of the common myths about protecting your hearing during lawn mowing.
- Mower Adjustments. Believe it or not, there is nothing you can do to the electric or gas mower to negate the need for hearing protection. The noise comes from the spinning blades, not the engine. More so, the engine seems rather quiet in comparison to the blades.
- Earbuds and Headphones. It would be best to avoid using earbuds or headphones to drown out the mower’s noise. Unfortunately, you will not block any noise with this equipment. Instead, they add more intensity to the existing damaging noise and cause rapid hearing loss.
- Cotton Balls Can Work as Ear Plugs. Please note that cotton balls are not a replacement for ear plugs. They do not block noise even if you squeeze them into your year. In addition, cotton balls and other related material’s noise reduction rating is close to zero.
- Ear Plugs are Dangerous! Ear plugs are very spongy and do not harm the eardrum. Thus, do not stress about them pushing the ear wax too far into the ear. In addition, you are safe if you use them correctly.
- Hearing Protection Is Just For Pros. Landscapers take ear protection seriously because they are around professional-style mowers for more than forty hours a week. On the other hand, most weekend mowers think they are not at risk with the mower noise. Thus, they think they do not need ear plugs or muffs. Well, this assumption is false and dangerous.
NB: Hearing damage is cumulative, especially when the noise is steady from a mower. However, it takes some time before it is apparent. But the hearing effects are real and will happen if you ignore ear protection.
Can You Listen to Music While Mowing the Lawn?
Yes. It is possible to listen to music while mowing the lawn. Comfortable ear plugs are safe for your ears, whether in a quiet place or around a noisy mower.
However, it would be best to manage the related risks as listening to music while mowing the yard can be bad and painful for your hearing.
Besides, the primary argument against using headphones to listen to music is that you’ll be less aware of your surroundings.
In addition, operating your gadget to change apps or songs will distract you from the job and even cause an accident.
Other dangers include:
- You will not hear when the mower hits an obstruction and thus an increased risk of a failed mower. Even worse, it is easy to spit the object out and hit yourself or another nearby person.
- It is possible to turn quickly and hit someone, especially when using a zero-turn ride-on mower that can turn on a dime.
- You could come out into the road or street when mowing on a busy street, try to turn around the mower and head back, and miss a car because you did not hear their engine.
Fortunately, it is possible to control the above hazards. Better still, you can listen to your music while operating loud outdoor appliances and keep safe.
Here’s what you should do:
- Assess if you are ready and fit for the lawn mowing project. Are you hungover? Did you have too much coffee? Did you get enough rest? This way, you’ll avoid being absent-minded while working and thus hurt yourself.
- Go to the project area and get a good view of potential hazards. Check for anything different or new and obstructions like chairs, bikes, and toys. Also, confirm with the weather forecast for rains as they make the ground slippery and risky.
- Consider whether the surrounding area is dangerous and needs blocking off. Say, you can put some orange cones to warn drivers and bike riders when mowing a cul-de-sand with a grass island. Likewise, put a warning sign when working in a backyard without a fence.
- Evaluate if you have the correct protective gear. For example, it would be safe to have eye protection, closed-in shoes, and ear protection. In addition, you can add some gloves and long pants for added safety.
- Take a break and have some water when you feel tired and agitated. Also, feel free to come even 30 minutes later after resting.
- Read the user manual if you are a first-time mower. In addition, please do not be in a hurry to complete the work. Just go slow!
NB: The above tips sound like a lot of work. But better safe than sorry! You wouldn’t want to be among the many people who suffer injuries from outdoor power tools at home.
Additionally, it would be safer to go for the best lawn mowing headphones if you must listen to music.
You can consider the 3M WorkTunes Bluetooth hearing protection as it offers excellent noise isolation and good sound quality.
Other traits for excellent lawn mowing headphones are:
- You can hear the podcast, music, or phone call over the mower’s engine noise without blasting the sound volume. This scenario is possible if you have ear plugs and earmuffs with in-built Bluetooth connectivity.
- The headphones are comfortable in your ears and do not fall off when you move your head around during mowing.
- The equipment should be wireless with an ideal battery life of about ten-plus hours.
- Lawn mowing headphones should withstand rough handling as you’ll use them in dusty, dirty, and wet environments.
It would be best to forego the music if you cannot follow through with the above instructions.
Otherwise, you will have all the noise exposure from the power tool in addition to full-blast music.
How Long Does it Take to Get Hearing Damage From a Lawn Mower?
Sound ranging from 95 to 100-decibel range can damage your hearing in as little as 15 minutes. Unfortunately, most power tools for lawn mowing produce noise within this range.
Therefore, it is prudent to adhere to the recommended safety tips and embrace ear protection. Otherwise, you’ll soon have noise-induced hearing loss.
Your ears have cilia, tiny hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical energy that moves through the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets the sound.
Further, loud sounds damage these cells, and since they do not regenerate, you’ll have noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible and permanent. However, it is possible to avoid this condition by avoiding long exposure to sounds over 85 decibels.
And please get ear protection if you must work with loud equipment.
What are Three Warning Signs of Hearing Loss?
Loss of hearing can be devastating to anyone and might take several years to adjust and to come to terms with the fact that one’s hearing is compromised.
Below are some of the early signs of hearing loss:
You Strain to Listen – and it’s Exhausting!
You are likely to suffer from hearing loss when you strain to listen to conversations, and they are even more exhausted than usual in the evening.
Also, you may have difficulty following through conversations like a bad phone connection or fading radio station.
Believe it or not, hearing is solely a brain activity. Hence, it needs to add more effort to process the sound when you have a compromised auditory system.
Even worse, the brain may not interpret the sound from your inner ear with a broken signal. Hence, listening becomes hectic.
In addition, you will struggle to hear consonant sounds. For instance, did the speaker say throw or show? It is possible to lose your ability to hear high-frequency sounds like S, F, Th, V, K, P, and Sh.
Generally, the above problem is often because of age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. But it is possible to show this symptom if you keep exposing yourself to noise above 85 decibels.
Even worse, you may misunderstand essential parts of a conversation and respond inappropriately.
You Have Ringing in Your Ears
Ringing ears and hearing loss often go hand in hand. Also, the symptom is a result of damage to the auditory system.
So, the brain tries to fill in the missing frequencies it does not receive from the system.
Understanding Conversation in Crowded Places is Increasingly Difficult
Another symptom of hearing loss is the inability to determine speech in noisy environments.
In addition, you may prefer to avoid social situations like impromptu celebrations with friends and family get-togethers where you need to concentrate on the conversation.
Can you remember the last time you heard crickets chirping or birds singing? Also, do you hear when the car’s turn signal blinks? Well, if these queries resonate with you, it is time to check your hearing.
What to Listen to While Mowing?
You can listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while mowing your lawn. However, it would be best for you to check a few things when choosing a music playlist.
For instance, the songs should be tolerable, so you won’t want to skip any of them. Besides, the song should have enjoyable quality throughout and must be best to listen to on max volume.
In addition, it would be better to recite most of the words, and the song should be starting fast.
Some music playlists for mowing include: ‘Walkin’ on the Sun by Smash Mouth, The Heat is ON by Glenn Frey, Sunburn by Fuel, Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, I Melt With You by Modern English, and Gimme Some Water by Eddie Money.
Alternatively, you can choose to get some audiobooks. However, please ensure that you consider interesting books.
Select authors that you love listening to and stories that keep you alert. This way, you’ll get maximum inspiration, which will translate into your work.
Popular lawn mowing audiobooks include Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The Burning Man by Phillip M. Margolin, The Green Mile by Stephen King, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.
Others include Blood, Sweat, and Tears by Winston S. Churchill, Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton, Bataan Death March bt Stanley L. Falk, and The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck.
How Loud Is a Riding Lawn Mower?
A riding lawn mower can produce noise levels of up to 90 decibels, whereas Push mowers are in the high 70s and low 80s range.
Also, this noise level is where the Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends ear protection. The noise level of normal conversations among individuals is often at 60 decibels.
In addition, the logarithmic formula that calculates decibels doubles sound intercity about every ten decibels.
So, a riding lawn mower is eight times as loud at 90 decibels, while a Push lawn mower is four times as loud at 80 decibels.
Also, this noise is similar to the extremely loud noises of passing cars at a highway speed at ten feet or a blender three feet away.
Worse still, the above levels are just below the 120-decibel rating that works as the threshold of pain. Therefore, it is safe to have earmuffs or ear plugs when operating riding or Push lawn mowers.
Fortunately, it is possible to get electric mowers with a decibel rating below the level of normal conversations.
In addition, cordless electric Push lawn mowers produce noise levels as low as 56 decibels, whereas manual push reel mowers have a 55-decibel rating.
Please note that riding lawn mowers are not the worst offenders in your tool shed. Chainsaws and gas-powered string trimmers can go up to 110 decibels, requiring you to have ear protection.
What Is the Primary Purpose of Hearing Protection?
If you wear hearing protection, you prevent noise-induced hearing loss. More so, hearing protection devices reduce the noise energy reaching your inner ear.
Therefore, your hearing cells can easily convert sound waves into electrical energy for interpretation.
It is safe to have PPE for hearing protection for employees working in noise levels equal to or greater than 85 decibels.
Also, it would be best for workers to wear hearing protection correctly for maximum safety.
Some of the most prevalent questions around this subject include:
What’s The Best Hearing Protection For Mowing?
Earmuffs and ear plugs are the best hearing protection devices for mowing. Earmuffs are mostly professional tools and more effective than plugs. In addition, they are easy to use, and you put them on like headphones.
The average cost of earmuffs is around $15. The price can go higher depending on product quality. But a greater price does not necessarily translate to better protection. The fit is what matters most.
Remember to check the muff’s cushioning. It should cover your ears and cover your head all the way around. Thus, evaluate the customer reviews if you buy these products online. Better still, ensure that the company has a goods return policy.
Feel free to return earmuffs whenever they turn out to be ill-fitting. Avoid using them as they may keep sliding and expose your ear to damaging sound levels. Thus, you end up using even more money for medical help.
Alternatively, you can go for ear plugs that have foam. They are user-friendly and quite cheap. Roll the plugs between your index fingers and thumb until they can fit your ear. Then, insert them and wait till they expand to fill the ear canal.
Pinch the plug ends and pull slowly during removal. In addition, a box with 200 ear plugs costs a little over $20 and can last a few years. Therefore, it is possible to make a one-time purchase for your five-year lawn maintenance routine.
It is okay to get rigid ear plugs if you do not want to keep rolling the plugs to fit them in your ears. These ear plugs are like little fir trees, with the skinnier top part going into the ear first. However, they are a bit more pricey than the foam type. You need approximately $100 for 100 pairs.
Fortunately, the ear plugs are reusable several times. Thus, the average cost will be the same as foam plugs in the long run. Also, you can buy the rigid plugs a pair at a time for $3 per set if you do not mow often.
Moldable plugs are perhaps the most comfortable hearing protection devices. Heat the ear plugs in boiling water to soften them. Then, let them cool for some time and insert them into your ear not too deep into the ear canal.
What Happens If You Don’t Use Hearing Protection While Mowing?
Regular or continuous exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels causes hearing damage, even if minor. Also, remember that mowers make about this much noise and more. Thus, it is always safe to use ear protection.
Hearing protection keeps the noise from reaching your inner ear. Moreover, you may not notice any hearing loss from a few mowing sessions. However, the constant acoustic assault will take its toll eventually.
Besides, ear damage and hearing loss are cumulative. It happens so gradually and slowly until the results are serious. Fortunately, you can consider seeking help when you notice the signs below:
- Frequent complaints that everyone is mumbling.
- You have to turn the television or radio up louder and louder to hear it.
- It is not possible to hear higher-pitched sounds well.
- You avoid social situations because following through with conversations is difficult and frustrating.
- There is a constant ringing in the ears.
- You have a muffled quality to sound.
My advice? Please use hearing protection while mowing before it is too late. More so, it would be best to consider devices that fit for a comfortable lawn mowing session.
Sometimes you may be working for more than three hours. Thus, you need to invest in comfortable earmuffs and ear plugs.
Also, it would be better to always go for devices that cancel noise from the surrounding environment. Otherwise, you will be adding more noise to your ear when you listen to music when mowing.
So What’s the Difference Between Noise-Canceling Headphones and Hearing protection?
Noise-canceling headphones feature a microphone that listens to the ambient sound and then produces a negative sound to cancel out this ambient. The devices use internal electronics and block harmful frequencies from entering your ear.
On the other hand, hearing protection blocks harmful noise from coming into your ears. It uses soundproof materials to isolate your eardrums and prevent hearing loss. And even better, the tools have speakers insides the barrier to play music at a regular volume.
How Do I Reduce the Noise on My Lawn Mower?
The best way to keep the mower from making excess noise, likely to lead to hearing loss is by staying on top of your maintenance game, such as changing your lawn mower blades regularly.
Please keep the engine cooler clean, wash or replace the air filter, and check the spark plug frequently. Also, you can pad the mower’s inside with sound-deadening mats as they absorb vibrations.
More so, the products even dampen the noise a washing machine would produce. Better still, it is possible to attach the material outside the motor case to muffle some sounds.
Lastly, you can consider getting quiet mowers such as battery-operated, electric, or Push reel mowers. Also, they are lighter and easy to operate compared to gasoline and noisy lawn mowers.
Why are Lawn Mowers so Loud?
Lawn mowers are so loud because of their internal parts. For instance, the appliances have mufflers that restrict the airflow needed for power. However, these parts make a lot of noise and can cause hearing loss.
Mufflers get hot very fast and easily suffer from cracking and corrosion. More so, they feature baffles that sometimes break free and produce a metallic sound. No wonder the too much noise from your lawn mower.
At the same time, the noise may be coming from muffler gaskets. These are metallic pieces between the muffler and the engine. And you will hear sounds and notice gas coming out if they break.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage harmful noise from the mower by checking these parts occasionally. Also, please examine them to confirm that they are in good shape and their correct positions.
The hearing loss association of America shows that one in every five Americans suffers hearing loss. Unfortunately, these numbers increase up to one in every three by 65.
And even worse, over 60 percent of those who experience the conditions get it from work-related tasks like lawn mowing.
So, let’s check out the available safety measures by answering the question:
Should You Wear Ear Protection While Mowing?
A reel mower may not require these devices as it does not produce harmful sound. But it is prudent to wear hearing protection for all your other lawn mowing devices.
Further, please get comfortable devices, especially if you’ll be on your feet for about three to four hours.
The longer you expose yourself to lawn mowing noise, the higher the risk of getting hearing loss. So, always store a pair of earmuffs or ear plugs near the mower to avoid forgetting them.