Let’s get serious for a minute.
Hearing damage can be irreversible.
In many cases, once it’s lost, it never comes back. Also, it can be cumulative. The more exposure you have to loud noise, over time it will absolutely begin to affect your hearing.
Listen, when I was younger, I was invincible. It’s not that I didn’t realize things I was doing would affect my body. I just didn’t care. I figured hell, one day we all get old, I’ll worry about that later.
I wish now that I had taken better care of my body. Better care of my joints. Better care of my skin relative to sun exposure. And definitely better care of my hearing.
How loud are chainsaws?
The average chainsaw is 106-120 decibels. Battery saws tend to be a bit quieter. And some saws are much louder.
That Supmix 62cc saw I reviewed a while back was loud enough to wake the dead!
Anything over about 80 decibels may require protection. Here’s the standard chart that relates how loud something is to the exposure limit, or length of time it might be sustainable:
Even if you are just running a chainsaw for a minute, just to clean up one branch or knock the knob off one log, you should be wearing hearing protection. It just isn’t worth the risks of going without.
Here’s what I would recommend, going in stages of effectiveness.
Stage 1 – the bare minimum
Foam Ear Plugs
Foam ear plugs like these Mack’s Ultra Soft ear plugs are a good product.
They are pretty convenient to carry. You can stuff then in your shirt or pants pocket, put a pack in your equipment bag, etc.
They are pretty comfortable. Because they’re so light weight, they don’t really bother your ears. They are soft and usually don’t cause any problem or irritation even if you have to wear them for hours at a time, or all day.
And they are reasonably effective. If inserted properly, they have a NRR (noise reduction rating) of 33 decibels. So if that saw your are using is 120 decibels, these ear plugs could reduce it to 87 decibels. That’s still a little sketchy if you look at the chart, but much better than nothing at all.
Stage 2 – a better option
These ear muffs from Decibel Defense are an upgrade option to Mack’s ear plugs.
One of the inherent problems with ear plugs is they aren’t terribly stable. They can be pulled out or knocked out, and there is a bit of technique to roll them up and insert them into your ear canal. These ear muffs do away with all of that.
Also, they have an improved NRR of 37 decibels. This provides just a little extra protection compared to the 33 decibels from the foam ear plugs.
These are very comfy, with soft, thick cushions that go over your ears. They of course are a good bit heavier than just the bare minimum foam ear plug. Another drawback, if you’re working in a hot environment these can add to your heat stress. I’m one of those guys who sweats a lot, and sometimes it feels really good to pull the ear muffs off and let myself cool down!
Stage 3 – best option
A helmet/visor/muff combo is really an advanced protection system, and is often times one of the best options.
I’m still a big fan. It is very well-optioned and thought out.
It has a tiny bump out at the top of the visor that acts as a sun shield. That little feature is so nice to have during certain times of the day when the sun is brutal.
They are very comfortable. They have an Egyptian cotton sweatband inside, and ya’ll already know how much I sweat. I might not want to wear a helmet on a hot day, but the Husky helmet at least bends over backwards to make it as comfortable as possible.
They have plenty of adjustments for size and fitting. And the best part is their face shield. It has a fine mesh which does a surprisingly good job of keeping sawdust from flying up into to your face and your nose.
One drawback here is that their earmuffs are only rated to a 24 decibel reduction. That’s pretty standard across most forestry helmets. I know it sounds crazy, but I typically stick ear plugs in and wear the helmet for any kind of extended use activity.
I should probably do some reviews for more safety apparel, given how frequently we all see folks getting hurt in the industry. You may have already checked out my article on chainsaw gloves, and shin guards.
Be safe out there, folks!