Know all the facts about hearing protection, its importance, and the different ways to protect your ears from damaging noise levels in your environment.
Published 3 May 2023
Hearing protection, simply put, is protecting your ears from dangerous noise levels, consequently preventing permanent hearing loss. Medical experts believe the best way to do this is by decreasing the volume or getting away from the source. If doing those are impossible, the next best thing is to wear protective gear that reduces the intensity of the sound entering your ears.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 20 million people are exposed to dangerous noise levels at the workplace annually. The global numbers are even more staggering, with about 600 million at risk. Moreover, 16 percent of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is directly linked to occupational noise.
The application of hearing safety measures is a must. Here’s why:
Decibel (dB) is the unit that measures sound. Humans can only take a certain decibel threshold. Anything above it may already cause injuries. The CDC created an interesting infographic that accurately describes the different sounds heard with their corresponding intensity. Here are some examples:
The International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations is responsible for setting labor standards among its member nations. They have defined the ‘safe level’ for occupational noise at 85 to 90dB if the noise is continuous and intermittent over an 8-hour work period. Other countries and their respective agencies have followed the same standard:
There are also specific government agencies and private organizations that ensure hearing safety standards are strictly followed in these highly-regulated sectors:
Hearing protection is more than just using earplugs and earmuffs. Other administrative controls are implemented to minimize or eradicate the threat posed by hazardous noise to workers.
Since the ‘safe level’ for occupational noise has been set, companies should do routine tests to ensure that they are within the permissible range. Installing sound level meters and noise dosimeters is highly recommended. Audiometers and other laboratory-based tests must also be performed to check the viability of hearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The first way to reduce noise is through engineering controls. This involves equipment (source of sound) modification or replacement or making specific changes to the path where sound travels to decrease its level.
The second course of action is implementing administrative controls, which requires changing workflows and operational policies such as employee scheduling.
There are very few options for hearing PPE. However, all these are effective in reducing noise while allowing users to properly communicate with their co-workers. Listed below are the different kinds and the considerations for choosing them.
While different companies have particular standards for wearing hearing protective gear, comfort and personal preference should still be considered because ear anatomy varies from one person to another. Companies should have all kinds available to ensure their workers wear them consistently.
This administrative control aims to protect and preserve health and safety by equipping employees with the right knowledge and skills through continuous training. This also involves routine physical examinations to make sure that no worker develops hearing problems. If health problems are discovered, managers can immediately take the necessary action to mitigate them.
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Ensuring a safe and healthy workplace is vital for your business, especially for the people working to sustain it. Aside from providing the necessary hearing protective gear, taking other engineering and administrative measures is crucial to reduce occupational noise. Let SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) help you in this endeavor.
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Eunice is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, Eunice has written a multitude of topics for over a decade now.
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