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How to easily protect your hearing from your sewing machine

How many times have you missed a phone call when you are busy at your sewing machine? Or missed a frustrated family member asking you ‘What’s for dinner?’

You simply didn’t hear them, and yes sometines just pretending you didn't hear them. The chances are, just like me you’ve done this a lot, and the reason why is that we often forget just how loud our sewing machines can be. Long-term exposure to noise levels like this could have a negative effect on our hearing. When researchers in Norway compared hearing exam results taken 20 years apart, they confirmed that those who reported using personal music devices at high volume had greater hearing losses.1 out of 5 adults under 70 already have suffered permanent damage to their hearing caused by excessive noise levels. This is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and is highly preventable. In this blog post, I will share with you how to easily protect your hearing from the long-term noise levels of your sewing machine.

How your sewing machine can

impact your hearing long-term

A company called Stac UK created a PDF report on noise levels of household appliances and recorded a standard sewing machine producing around 60 decibels of noise during use, which is about the rate of normal conversation, according to the CDC. I’m not sure about you, but I have certainly noticed that most sewing machines, and in particular industrial machines, including my long-arm quilting machine are much louder than casual conversation levels. If this is the case then our sewing machines may fall into higher levels of noise output, which can be damaging if exposed to for long periods of time.

Over the years I have found that my sewing room can get so loud that I often need to wear earbuds to listen to things as I work, or I watch television while my long-arm machine is going. As I turn up the TV to be heard over my machine, people often have trouble hearing me talk and I’m pretty loud! All of that noise, day after day, is not good for my hearing and I want to avoid future hearing loss. After all, Healthy Quilting is about machine maintenance, looking after our bodies as we sew.

The problem is that I think we get used to the noise in our sewing rooms and we adjust to accept it, rather than seeking to take preventative measures from the get-go. We have to remember that we are the most important piece of equipment in that room, so it is crucial that we prepare our sewing spaces accordingly.

Here’s a simple way to protect your hearing

from your sewing machine

If you are going to treat yourself to a Christmas gift or add something else to your list for Santa this year, then I recommend getting yourself a pair of industrial over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones. My son, who is an engineer, bought me a pair of these headphones for Christmas a few years ago and I haven’t looked back!

Mine headphones are from 3M and they're called Worktunes.

These cost under $100 CAD, and while that sounds like a lot, I would like to point out that some of our sewing machine pieces can be at least that (I’m thinking immediately of a longarm foot that cost $75 CAD with tax!) I’m not on commission or affiliated with this brand, so take a look at what's available and shop around. You might find something else that suits your needs more. Don’t forget to leave me a comment here on the blog and let me know what you get!

These particular headphones are the same grade quality as those used for a leaf blower, a snowblower, or you know when I'm cutting down trees with my chainsaw. Now you might say, Rose, my machine isn’t that loud. Honestly, I think you’d be surprised at just how loud and how close to what the CDC suggests is an ear-damaging level of decibels your machine can really be! Especially as it ages. Then, of course, you need to consider the length of time we are at our machines. If you are like me it can be hours of sewing before I emerge from my sewing room for lunch or dinner. So let’s avoid any hearing damage and invest in ourselves.

What’s great about these particular headphones is that, unlike average noise-canceling headphones, or earbuds which aren’t the best choice according to the Hearing Health Foundation, they allow me to integrate with my other Bluetooth devices, such as my phone. This means I still get those important calls and I still get to watch my favourite shows while I work. Even more importantly I can still hear my machine, although at a much lower level, which means I can tell when a bobbin runs out or a row is finished.

If you are listening to an audiobook and can’t hear anything going on around you then the volume is too high!

You are also less likely to lose these, like all those other headphones, because they are huge! When you're done you're going to charge them, or turn them off and hang them up in your sewing studio.

It does take a little while to get used to them, I will say, because they're so vacuum-sealed but once you are good with them, then it is one investment for your long-term health and sewing.

Don't forget the 60-60 rule. Only go to 60% of the maximum volume and take a break after 60 minutes. My iPhone has a Headphone safety feature in the settings. If I exceed the 7-day limit, I receive a notification and the volume is turned down. Some phones also have a volume limit you can preset.

What else can you do to drop the noise levels of your sewing machine?

There are a couple of things you can do here.

  1. Make sure your sewing table is balanced - uneven surfaces or table feet can cause an increase in noise, as well as make the use of that machine more difficult (and possibly unsafe).

  2. Check your machine maintenance - do you need more oil or have lint caught somewhere. Are your bobbins moving? All of these things can be easily fixed and reduce some noise. Regular maintenance also goes a long way to the effectiveness of our machine and its noise output in turn.

  3. Sewing machine anti-noise and vibration pad - This might help balance a machine that isn’t fixed directly to the sewing table or floor. If you do get one of these remember to make adjustments in your chair height, or sewing table height to give yourself the best ergonomic position for less painful sewing.

How we set up our sewing room for ease of use and healthy use today determines how many years of use we will be able to get out of it. Think: sew healthy and happy!

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3 days ago

A very practical advice on protecting hearing when engaging in extended sewing sessions. Emphasizing that many household appliances can exceed safe noise limits, the tips about using quality Bluetooth headphones that allow ambient sound are very useful. The recommendation to only listen at moderate volumes and take regular breaks is also wise counsel. Maintaining hearing health is important for lifelong well-being.

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