Occupational Hearing Protection
According to the NIOSH, approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, causing an estimated $242 million per year to be spent on worker’s compensation due to hearing loss disability.
NIOSH recommends “all worker exposures to noise be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss.” NIOSH also recommends “a 3 dBA exchange rate so that every increase by 3 dBA doubles the amount of the noise and halves the recommended amount of exposure time.”
Loud, constant sounds all day long at work can cause long term hearing problems. Loud, sudden noises (gunfire, industrial noises, woodworking, motorcycles, loud music, motorized lawn equipment, noisy hobbies and other noises louder than 90 db) are more damaging to hearing than regular and extended exposure to loud sounds over a period of time.
NIOSH recommends a hearing loss prevention program that includes the use of hearing protection devices, periodic hearing tests and education for workers along with administrative controls that include accurate record keeping, evaluations and audits.
When properly fitted, earplugs can significantly reduce loud noises and prevent hearing damage and loss. Hearing protectors not properly fitted to the wearer’s ears do not effectively prevent damaging noises from penetrating the ear canal.