Noise is one of the most common occupational hazards in many workplaces. This is especially true in industrial settings, where there is often constant background noise that increases the danger of permanent hearing loss for workers. Most people think that you can permanently damage your hearing only when exposed to an extremely high level of noise, such as an explosion. Hearing damage can also occur gradually, at much lower levels of noise if you are continuously exposed to it.
The factors that contribute to hearing damage include the noise level intensity (measured in decibel units), the duration of exposure to the noise, and the type of noise: stable, fluctuating, intermittent, or impulsive. According to audiologists, the irreversible damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 dB. Symptoms of hearing loss include ringing in the ears, difficulty following regular conversations, or when noises seem to be muffled. Even a slight loss of hearing can prevent you from working to your full potential.
The table below shows you when it is necessary to put your hearing protection on, not just at work, but also in your personal life while performing common activities, like mowing your lawn, for example.
A Table of Safe Exposure Times
High-Noise Work Area Safety Check List for Employers:
- Post “High Noise Area” signs,
- Regularly review the effectiveness of the hearing protection measures in your workplace,
- Provide your employees with training on how to use their hearing protection to achieve the best results,
- Rotate your crews frequently to control your workers’ noise exposure,
- Insulate noisy equipment to prevent noise level increase,
- Ensure that the hearing protection equipment is clean and has no cracks or tears, replace out-of-order hearing protection devices with the new ones immediately.
Selection of Hearing Protection
The acoustic perception of the reality plays a much more important role in our orientation in the environment than many people realize. Our eyes are only able to observe the area in front of us, but our ears recognize sounds coming from all directions and can alert us of the dangers. This is why hearing protection is important to keep us safe.
Measuring sound levels with a sound meter and wearing hearing protection devices are essential for your health. If a sound meter detects a noise level higher than 85 dB, the proper ear protection equipment (ear muffs, ear plugs) is required to prevent the hearing loss.
Poor fitting hearing protectors, like ear muffs, will prevent you from obtaining perfect protection for your ears. The hearing protection devices manufacturers came up with a multitude of solutions for every possible situation in a workplace. Ear-muffs can now be equipped with a headband, a behind-the-head or under-the-chin band, and a neckband, and some ear-muffs can be mounted onto hard hats and welding helmets.
Here is a great example of excellent ear muffs for the workplaces that have electrical hazards: the Thunder T3 from Bilsom ear muff is fully dielectric, i.e. made of plastic, with no metal presence. Its inner ventilated headband provides extra comfort and minimizes the pressure on the head which allows you to comfortably wear them for a longer period of time.
With an NRR 27 rating, the Peltor H7A ear muffs will protect your hearing against up to 101 decibels of external noise. Its inner fluid-filled cushion is covered with foam encased in high-quality vinyl, making these earmuffs comfortable for wearing in any environment.
The Sync Ear Muffs have industrial strength hearing protection and can be easily used with any portable music player. The experts at Howard Leight have engineered this safety set up to give you both protection and quality sound engineering. The Sync headband is an ideal solution for anyone who needs to wear hearing protection for extended periods of time, at work or at home.
When ear muffs are worn in a hot environment, users might want to temporarily remove the ear muffs to wipe the sweat from their ears which leaves the ears unprotected. In this case, the risk of deterioration of hearing could be increased by up to nine times. In such warm environment, the solution is to use both ear plugs and ear muffs simultaneously. There are several types of ear plugs that you can choose for your application: pre-molded, custom-molded, corded, disposable or reusable.
Pre-molded ear plugs with several soft layers are designed to fit all ear canal sizes and are typically reusable. Our best sellers - Moldex BattlePlugs Dual Mode Impulse Ear Plugs - are ideal for hunters, soldiers, or workers subjected to occasional loud sounds, and provide two levels of hearing protection depending on how they are worn: with or without inner plug. The inner plug can be removed for easier communication when needed.
Moldex foam custom-molded ear plugs are able to expand inside the ear canal to provide an excellent acoustic seal. Ear-plugs made of polymeric foam can be disposable or reusable. Moldex Pura Fit Foam Ear Plugs offer superior comfort for users: their longer length makes them easy to insert and remove, and their extra smooth surface means no complaints of skin irritation. These air plugs are disposable, so sanitation and maintenance are not necessary. You will discard them after each use. Construction workers, drillers, sewer workers, and workers who frequently use chainsaws or jackhammers prefer Pura Fit earplugs because they are comfortable for all types of hot, damp, and humid work environments.
Corded ear plugs, like the SmartFit earplug by Howard Leight, feature a detachable cord system. The poly cords provide extra safety and convenience. You can remove the cord by pulling it out of the plug and replace it back into the plug at any time.
Hopefully, this article will help you select the right solution to ensure your safety in noisy environments. For more information, call our experts today at 800-829-9580, or visit us online in order to find the best hearing protection for your application.