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HEARING PROTECTION

BEST PRACTICES FOR

HEARING PROTECTION Theresa Y Schulz*, PhD

SELECTION

Despite the ongoing industry-wide attention and investment in hearing conservation programs and engineering solutions, extreme noise levels — and the potential for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) — are encountered by workers throughout industry.

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n many environments, perhaps the simplest solution for the highest level of protection is a properly fitted foam earplug. These protectors — available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and even stems — are often recommended where exposure to potentially damaging levels of noise may be encountered. Proper fit, however, is critical. For use where noise is intermittent or where noise levels may require raised voices for clear communication, multipleuse earplugs can be quickly and easily removed or replaced as hazardous noise levels increase or subside. A variety of shapes and sizes are available to ensure the best fit by matching the variations in users’ ear canals. For use alone or with insertable earplugs, consider the use of earmuffs. Some rules of thumb include: the larger the earcup of the muff, the greater attenuation or noise protection; and when an earplug is used in combination with an earmuff, add 5 decibels to the provided attenuation. In practical use, many workers need both hearing protection and clear communications. In these cases, technology offers selection alternatives to removing one’s hearing protector (which is not recommended) in a noisy environment in order to communicate: • Option1 is a ‘uniform attenuation’ hearing protector, which has filters that reduce the overall amount of noise reaching the ear and still allows a segment of the high-frequency sounds that comprise speech.

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• Option 2 is the use of an advanced communication system, which is recommended when clarity in communications is critical for preventing injury or death. Such systems combine hearing protection, active noise reduction and voice signal amplification.

Hearing protection access As workers move around areas in or between worksites, the challenges of providing hearing protection increase — from noise levels, to the availability of protection equipment, to the policies and monitoring of protector use. As with all personal protective equipment, hearing protectors should be readily available everywhere they are needed. Regardless of worksite, workers need the training and education to know how, where and when to use their protectors. Another rule of thumb: If you are at arms-length from someone and need to shout in order to have them hear you, then the noise level in the environment is such that you both need hearing protection. The solution is to keep hearing protectors at hand. Store earplugs in pockets, and re-usable earplugs and folding earmuffs in their cases. Many earmuffs can be used with belt clips. Be sure to also use available engineering controls. This might be as easy as closing the door on a piece of heavy equipment.

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 - SAFETY SOLUTIONS 37

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Safety Solutions Aug/Sept 2015  

Launched in April 2003, this bi-monthly magazine provides vital information on safety products and services in the industrial, construction,...

Safety Solutions Aug/Sept 2015  

Launched in April 2003, this bi-monthly magazine provides vital information on safety products and services in the industrial, construction,...