Trends in ... hearing protection
Experts offer advice
According to NIOSH, 26 million workers are hearing-impaired – and 24% of these cases can be attributed to on-the-job noise. This is why “we continue to hear from employees having some degree of hearing impairment that they need devices that enable them to hear critical sounds and communications while diminishing the risk of a noise-induced hearing loss,” says Garry G. Gordon, M.S., audiologist and CEO of E.A.R. Inc.
However, as Katie Mielcarek, marketing manager for Gateway Safety Inc., points out, “Selection of hearing protection equipment for a workforce can be daunting, with so many types, shapes and sizes to choose from.”
Added Gordon: “The demand for protection that can enhance communications and situational awareness are showing a significant increase.”
So, what do employers need to know?
“Employers should be providing personal protective equipment that their employees will actually want to wear … and will continue to wear through the workday,” Mielcarek says. “Innovations in modern-day hearing protection that are focused on employee comfort are the most successful. If hearing protection is a hassle to put in or over the ears, employees just aren’t going to wear it.”
Some earplug guidelines, according to Mielcarek:
- They should be easy to insert.
- They need to be comfortable once inserted into the ear. Soft materials and smooth, rounded tips will lead to increased worker acceptance and longer wear.
- Offer accepted earplug styles in multiple sizes to help a wider range of worker needs in regard to sizing and fit.
“Many of the newer options in today’s marketplace include acoustic filters and electronic devices that enable an employee to hear much better while working in a hazardous noise environment,” Gordon said. “In some cases, should the employee have a moderate to severe hearing loss, these devices can be digitally programmed like a hearing aid to improve both situational awareness and one’s ability to understand communications.”
One last piece of advice from Mielcarek: “Customers should be looking for products that are independently tested by accredited, third-party testing labs to their published noise reduction rating. This will give employers confidence in the NRR level they are providing to their employees.”
Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association
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