How Dryers & Blasters Affect Your Hearing: What You Need To Know As A Groomer
Did you know that as a groomer, you could be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss? Here’s why, and how you can stay safe!
One thing that we can all agree on is that grooming salons can be very noisy places! There are plenty of factors that add to the melting pot; phones ringing, dogs barking, clippers buzzing… but there are a couple of big offenders – dryers and blasters!
Often when we buy a blaster or dryer, our first consideration when it comes to noise is; ‘How will my furry customers react to this’? Our thoughts are always with the well-being of the animals in our care. But have you ever thought about the negative effect that your equipment might be having on your own hearing?
It all depends on the decibels. You know all too well that dryers come with various speeds and settings, but the one thing you can’t control is how loud it can get, especially when at it’s highest speed. Some of these dryers can be as loud as 108 decibels. Considering the average human pain threshold is 110 decibels, this is very loud indeed!
A recent Groomers Limited survey of 317 professional groomers found that 88% did not know the decibel rating of their blasters or dryers. It’s not something that we usually think about, but it’s so important for us to know, and not just because of noise regulations. It’s also because of how the level of noise affects our own health and that of the other people or animals in the business.
In the 2012 study, ‘Noise Impacts From Professional Dog Grooming Forced-Air Dryers’, this topic was addressed and it offered some really interesting results. Four dryers were tested and the study found that the average sound level for three of the four makes of dryer was between 105 and 108 decibels, with the other dryer being recorded at 94.8 decibels.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that ‘Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.’ That means that all of the dryers tested would be hazardous to hearing with repeated use.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations limit exposure to the decibel levels of around 105 to just 40-60 minutes per workday to ensure hearing isn’t damaged. Unfortunately, the Groomers Limited survey found that 95% of us are exposed to dryer noise for longer than this every day, with an astonishing 38% of us hearing dryer noise for over 4 hours daily. With such large percentages, and with 3 of 4 of the dryers in the study rated at this level, it seems that many of us could be in danger of damaging our hearing due to high levels of noise from our equipment.
There are three factors that contribute to noise-induced hearing loss: The intensity of the sound, the closeness of the source and the length of exposure. A gun shot right next to the ear can instantly deafen someone, while the sound of an MP3 player at maximum volume (about 105 decibels) for half an hour each day will slowly cause noise-induced hearing loss. According to WebMD, ‘Most cases of noise-induced hearing loss are caused by repeated exposure to moderate levels of noise over many years, not by a few cases of very loud noise’.
Regrettably, this slow form of hearing loss is exactly the type of hearing issue that groomers may be affected by. The warning signs of noise-induced hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute, are ‘difficulty understanding speech’, ‘a ringing or buzzing after exposure to loud noises’ or you have ‘a feeling of ‘fullness’ in your ears after leaving a noisy area’. If you have any of these, the chances are that your hearing has already been affected by high noise levels, and so the time to act is now!
While many of us work alone and therefore can limit our dryer use, there are plenty who work as part of a team, often using several pieces of equipment at once.These people are even more at risk as the decibel levels are higher and the amount of time you are exposed to this is longer.
So, how can we protect our hearing in a busy salon? Well, your hearing is affected by one main rule: As loudness increases, the amount of time you can hear the sound before damage occurs decreases. According to the Better Hearing Institute, a sound of 100 decibels can cause damage within 15 minutes, while 85 decibels will only begin causing damage after 8 hours. Lower the sound to a safe level and you are much less likely to damage your hearing. That’s why we recommend keeping a pair of ear defenders handy.
You can find out the decibel level of your dryer or your salon overall in a few ways. Some suppliers or manufacturers will include this rating in their product descriptions online or on packaging, but if not you can easily download a free decibel reading app on your smartphone or even buy a decibel meter from electronics shops.
In the Groomers Limited 2018 survey, 57% of groomers asked did not own ear defenders, and of those who did, just 16% wear them every time they use a blaster or dryer. The most important thing to take from this is to start using ear defenders on each occasion a dryer or blaster is being used. They protect your hearing by absorbing sound waves, helping to reduce the amount of decibels that get to your ears. However, 90% of people asked in the survey would prefer not to wear ear defenders, so what now? It’s simple: Invest in a dryer designed to be a lot quieter.
Now, we don’t want to tell you to chuck away your current dryers. After all, they cost a lot of money! But if you do need a new one, look for those with a nice, low decibel rating of 84 or under, but preferably under 75 to ensure no damage is caused. The quieter the dryer is, the better for your hearing.
For quiet dryers, we recommend XPower. These reliable blasters and finishing dryers feature ‘Polymer Silencing Technology’, which ensures they all are within a safe level of hearing, even over a prolonged time. Decibel ratings for these dryers range between a tiny 69 decibels, to 80 decibels. Ideal for a professional grooming environment the dryers feature a highly durable and easy to clean polyethylene casing which helps to keep the product lightweight as well as adding thermal protection. Each dryer is kitted out with an array of useful accessories, and some even include a vaccuum function to tidy up excess hair when needed.
In the meantime, we recommend getting yourself a pair of ear defenders or fishing out the ones that are hiding in a drawer somewhere. Don’t forget to pop on a Happy Hoodie for the dog you’re drying too, that way you both can be protected!
Looking for ear defenders? Look no further: http://bit.ly/2FiPPkp
See our range of extremely quiet XPower dryers, all 80 decibels and under: http://bit.ly/2sKwmpZ
This blog is part of the Groomers Dryer Noise Awareness Campaign. Please help us spread the word by sharing this blog post and related information to your fellow groomers. Let’s help promote a better quality of life with good hearing for all groomers.
Scheifele PM, Johnson MT, Byrne DC, Clark JG, Vandlik A, Kretschmer LW, Sonstrom KE. Noise impacts from professional dog grooming forced-air dryers. Noise Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2017 Aug 22];14:224-6. Available at: http://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2012/14/60/224/102958.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Noise Induced Hearing Loss [online] Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss.
Web MD. Harmful Noise Levels [online]. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/harmful-noise-levels-topic-overview.
Groomers Limited. (2018). Groomers Dryers & Blasters Survey [online]. Available at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RRZNS5Q
Better Hearing Institute. Noise-Induced hearing Loss [online]. Available at: http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/hearing-loss-prevention/noise-induced-hearing-loss