The reality of the situation is often surprising to some people. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to operate a jack-hammer 10 hours a day to damage your hearing. Often times, people suffer permanent hearing damage and/or loss from working in an environment that might not seem dangerously loud. If the sound is repetitive or constant, it doesn't have to be at an extremely high decibel to do damage. Many industrial workers, equipment operators, and processing plant employees have suffered problems like ringing ears, decreased hearing sensitivity, mild to intermediate hearing loss from nothing other than spending so much time in their work environment near mid-level noise intensity. Others have suffered very serious ringing of the ears and massive hearing loss due to being used to the sound intensity and/or failure to utilize hearing protection.
So, how do you minimize hearing damage? It's rather simple - hearing protection is the single most important factor. If you're going to be working near excessive noise for specific tasks, be sure to have proper protection available at all times. It's easy to use and then remove the protection as needed when the sound intensity decreases or the tasks requiring hearing protection are complete. If you're working in a medium-noise facility where long-term exposure is a concern, consider wearing disposable ear plugs. They can be worn in a loose fashion that helps protect your ears by muffling loud noises while still making it possible to hear and communicate with others.
Remember, your ears don't have to hurt for noise to hurt your ears. Too many people disregard the importance of hearing protection while ignoring the possibilities of hearing damage because they assume that if sound levels aren't hurting their ears then it's okay. It can take quite some time for hearing damage to develop or show symptoms, but it can also happen instantaneously in the right environment. Protect your ears, be safe, and keep hearing protection at your disposal.