Continuous exposure to loud noise without any kind of protection can increase the risk of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels is dangerous for your ears. Some sources of noise that can cause NIHL include transport, construction, manufacturing and the mining industries, all emitting sounds from 120 to 150 decibels. Of the roughly 40 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, 10 million can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL is completely preventable. All individuals should understand the hazards of noise and protect their ear health, and that includes wearing earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity. Proper hearing protection is mandatory in workplaces where noise levels exceed the maximum noise standards as set by OSHA. Earplugs and earmuffs help protect ears from loud noises.
Research shows that the single biggest reason why people remove or avoid wearing hearing protection is the need to communicate with others. When the hearing protection is removed, wearers can be exposed to dangerous levels of noise that can result in noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). It takes only two minutes exposure to a very loud noise before permanent hearing damage takes place. That is an unacceptable risk to employees. No hearing protection device can be effective if safety precautions are not taken and rules not followed.
There is a huge range of earplug products available with new technologies offering more safety features and improved capabilities. One is often at a loss to understand which product is best for a specific situation. To make the decision process easier, understanding those options beforehand can save you time and prevent dissatisfying results.
The best earplugs have a high noise-reduction rating (NRR) and are typically made of silicon or some type of foam. Ear plugs are a popular form of ear protection that typically offers a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 22. While this may be sufficient in a working environment where the decibel level is 85, it would not suffice in louder workplaces such as a construction site.
Earplugs are available in unobtrusive designs combined with unparalleled communication functionality. They are cost effective and Bluetooth enabled, offering optimized hearing and speech clarity when used with cell phones.
Which type of ear protection is chosen by workers will depend upon the fit, comfort and convenience of either ear muffs or ear plugs. Hence safety professionals should follow certain guidelines when selecting these earmuffs.
Choosing the right hearing protection device is important. Here are some points to consider to make sure you are choosing the right communication headsets for yourself or your employees:
Lower Overall Noise Reduction – Select a hearing protection device that provides moderate to maximum attenuation. Such HPDs adjust according to changes in background noise that are intermittent, continuous or high impact.
Communication Systems – If you are selecting an HPD, find one that incorporates protection along with communication capabilities. With these devices users can communicate face to face at short and long distances via a two way radio, Bluetooth cell phone or hands free communication with VOX activation in high noise environments.
Situational Awareness – HPDs maintain situational awareness and determine nature, distance and directionality of all sounds, including alarms, speech and vehicles/machinery.
Selecting the right earmuffs or ear plugs is vital to improve worker safety, improve regulatory compliance, and improve productivity and worker morale. A new approach to high noise communication and hearing protection ensures users can hear speech and stay protected in high noise environments.