Hearing Protection For Loud Workplaces

All workers exposed to noise louder than 85 decibels for eight hours or more per day should wear hearing protection devices (HPDs) such as earplugs or earmuffs. When used correctly, hearing protection devices can effectively protect against occupational noise-induced hearing loss.

22 million Americans are exposed to loud noise while on the job, with inadequate hearing protection. And an estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability.

Who Is At Risk?

Who is most at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) from their job? Here is a list of some of the loudest occupations where workers commonly experience hearing loss.
  • Construction Workers: One of the largest groups to submit hearing loss claims each year, construction workers are subject to noise all day on construction sites from machinery, heavy vehicles and power tools.
  • Factory Workers: The constant din of machinery, tools, and people yelling over all that noise makes manufacturing one of the most common industries associated with hearing loss.
  • Truck Drivers: Sitting in a loud truck for 7 or more hours a day could take its toll on anyone’s hearing. Added to the engine noise is the noise from the brakes, the wind noise, noise from communication devices, tire/road noise, and noise from other vehicles.
  • Rail Transport Employees: A study in Australia in 2006 found that rail workers experienced hearing loss at a rate that was 12 times the national average, and that the incidence of deafness for rail transport employees was higher than those from other transport industries such as air and water.
  • Music Industry Employees (Bars/Nightclubs/Concert Venues): The sound level in music venues often ranges between 90-100 decibels, but can get up to 140 decibels - which is loud enough for immediate nerve damage to occur. People on stage (even classical musicians!) and those working behind the scenes, including sound and lighting techs, bartenders, ushers, etc., are exposed to loud music night after night, and the cumulative effect could be impaired hearing.
  • Others Loud Occupations: Some other noisy occupations include auto mechanic, military personnel, airport ground crew, farm workers, dental professionals, nursery school teachers, emergency response workers (ambulance, fire, police), race car drivers and pit crew.

Types of Hearing Protection for Workers

The type of hearing protection device to choose will depend on the amount and loudness of the noise you’re exposed to, workplace regulations, and what’s comfortable to wear. By law, hearing protection devices must be labeled with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) based on their ability to reduce noise. But remember that the best hearing protection isn’t the one with the highest Noise Reduction Rating, but the one that a person will consistently wear when they are exposed to loud noise.

Here are a few types of hearing protection commonly worn on the job…
Types of Protection Pros Cons

Roll Down Foam

Roll Down Foam Plugs

  • Fits many different shapes of ear canals
  • Good protection in noisy environments
  • Convenient and disposable
  • Won’t provide adequate protection if not inserted correctly
  • User may not realize when the plug doesn’t make a good seal

Reusable Plugs

Reusable Earplugs 

  • Available in different sizes
  • Convenient to use, and reusable
  • Often come with convenient carrying cords
  • Must be kept clean
  • Each ear may require a different size
  • Inadequate protection if the ear canal isn’t properly sealed

Earmuffs

Earmuffs

  • One size fits all
  • Comfortable to wear for a long time
  • Can be worn with ear plugs for additional protection
  • Could be warm in a hot environment
  • May not fit comfortably with other protective equipment such as goggles

Custom Earmolds

Custom Earmolds 

  • Molded to fit perfectly in the user’s ear
  • Reusable, washable, ideal for long-term use
  • Can be made to diminish sounds over certain decibels, so you can hear normal conversation while still protecting your ears from loud machinery or construction
  • More expensive than foam earplugs, but the price is often covered through an employee insurance plan

We Can Help

If you work in a noisy environment, schedule a free hearing screening & consultation to find out whether you have a hearing loss, and if so, what you can do about it. We can fit you for custom ear molds to protect your hearing and prevent further damage. 

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