Hearing Protection – Avoiding cumulative effects

What’s the risk of Noise Exposure? When you are exposed to loud noises over long periods of time, you are at an increased risk of losing your ability to hear. Once the nerves of the inner ear are destroyed or damaged from exposure to excessive noise, the damage is permanent. It does not matter where you are exposed to excessively loud noise. Exposures can occur at work, home, or play. Power tools, recreational equipment, car races, musical bands or headphones can all generate excessive noise.

How to Reduce Sound Levels:

Injury due to sound is additive. Reducing the number of sources and more importantly the amount of exposure time to noise will reduce the overall potential for lasting injury.

Sound levels can be reduced by standing back from operating equipment, closing the windows on trucks and heavy equipment, and performing very loud activities such as arc cutting and grinding outside on nice days.

Protection depends on a good seal between the surface of the skin and the surface of the ear protector. A very small leak can reduce effectiveness. Protectors have a tendency to work loose as a result of working and talking and must be reseated from time to time during the workday.

Types of Hearing Protection Devices: Never use cotton, stereo headsets, earbuds, or other makeshift hearing protectors. They do not protect your ears from noise. Use one of the following:

Earplugs: Inserted into the ear canal to seal out noise. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. They may be disposable or reusable. Never put dirty earplugs back in your ear. Injury, infection, and loss of hearing can result. The number on the side of the package is the number of decibels that are reduced by their use.

Earmuffs: Earmuffs are the best protectors. They have a headband with cushioned plastic cups to cover ears. Some can be clipped into hard hats to keep them with you all the time. Keep them clean and wiped down or they can get uncomfortable.

Double protection: Earmuffs and Earplugs should be worn in combination in high-noise areas when cutting pipe, arc gouging, chipping or crushing, and when stationary equipment, power tools and pumps are in use nearby in closed spaces.



“I don’t really need this PPE. Noise doesn’t bother me.”

We resist wearing hearing protection more than any other type of personal equipment. One of the most common reasons is we don’t think they really need it. But hearing loss is so gradual, even in intense exposures, that by the time you realize that you can’t hear as well as you used to, the damage has been done and can’t be reversed.

Three factors may be used to determine the level of noise:

1. If it is necessary for you to speak in a very loud voice or shout directly into the ear of a person to be heard, the noise exposure limit is being exceeded.

2. If you have ringing in your ears (tinnitus) at the end of the workday, or lying in bed, you are being overexposed.

3. If speech or music sounds muffled to you after leaving work, but sounds fairly clear in the morning when you return to work, you are being exposed to noise levels that can eventually cause hearing loss.

“Work hard in silence. Let your success make all the noise.”

Frank Ocean, American Singer-Songwriter

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