Product Focus: Hearing protection

Trends in ... hearing protection

‘Education, education and more education’


Roughly 30 million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise every year, OSHA states. This can lead to serious consequences. The agency notes that in addition to the potential for hearing damage, being exposed to loud noises on the job can “create physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals.”

‘Eliminate gaps’

“From our vantage point,” said Garry Gordon, CEO/audiologist, E.A.R. Inc. in Boulder, CO, “we continue to see the need for filtered and/or electronic hearing protection systems (generic or custom fit) that permit situational awareness.”

Gordon said another issue is workers wearing poorly fitting hearing protection. “According to the data we hear from industrial accounts in addition to audiometric hearing test companies, there are numerous employees who do not wear their hearing protection properly due to improper fit and/or insertion errors.”

Jeffrey Birkner, vice president, technical services and quality assurance for Culver City, CA-based Moldex, said some workers do not know how to properly wear hearing protection. “For insert devices, they are often not inserted adequately to afford the user maximum protection,” he said. “For banded devices, they also are misused such that they have gaps between the skin and the protectors’ surfaces.” For these devices to work as intended, Birkner stressed, gaps need to be eliminated.

Education is key

To help resolve these issues, proper training is a must. “Education, education and more education,” is Gordon’s advice.

“The most important thing to remember is that once hearing is permanently lost it cannot be gotten back,” Birkner said. “Therefore, users must be diligent in wearing their protectors properly and consistently in noisy environments.”

Coming next month … 

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association