Annually, 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise at work. PPE for hearing protection can prevent hearing loss, however it can also prevent effective communication on the jobsite. By investing in communication devices with integrated hearing protection, you can maintain worker safety and improve productivity.

There are many benefits of using communication equipment that integrates hearing protection.

1. Streamlined communication

Mesh Intercom™ headsets with integrated hearing protection offer multiple channels meaning that foremen or plant managers can communicate with multiple teams using a single device, that also reduces noise, rather than using multiple radios. Additionally, handsfree operation from integrated headsets make quick communication easy and much more natural than the traditional communication methods like two-way radios.

2. Better communication quality

When workers can converse naturally without interpreting hand signals or strain to hear shouting in a noisy environment, they are able to have better quality conversation and be more effective. Today’s Bluetooth or Mesh headsets with hearing protection offer high-definition audio as opposed to lower quality audio and other interference common with two-way radios.

3. Improved productivity

Communication headsets with integrated hearing protection keep crews on task, while making them accessible to each other and leaders without leaving, or pausing, from their tasks. When workers have only earplugs or earmuffs without integrated communication, they often use hand signals. There are only so many messages that can be communicated using hand signals and lip reading can be difficult at proper distances. Stopping to decipher signals or have a shouted conversation delays work. The capability to continue working while having a one-on-one or full team conversations improves productivity.

4. Safer operations

Integrated devices improve workers’ ability to recognize alerts, leading to safer operations. While noise attenuation protects worker hearing, integrated devices also mean that workers don’t have to remove PPE to communicate with each other, further reducing exposure to damaging noise. It’s also easy to use integrated headsets while wearing masks. Additionally, headsets with hearing protection are also available in models that fit onto hard hats, integrating more protection and communication in a very easy manner. Consistent PPE use helps keep workers safe in their environments and eliminating yelling also protects worker health.

Worksites are also safer when instant alerts to danger can be given. In loud working conditions, shouting to alert a teammate of a potential danger can cause delayed reactions. With integrated headsets transmitting high-quality, full-duplex audio directly to workers, verbal alerts to potential dangers are faster and the ease of communication makes it possible to team members to look out for each other.

5. Better physical distancing for COVID prevention

OSHA’s rule of thumb is: If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone standing 3 feet away, the workplace is noisy and hearing protection should be implemented. With COVID prevention efforts, standing 3 feet from another person is too close. Even if the workplace is not more than 85 decibels, communication at physical distance requirements of 6 feet or more may be difficult. Headsets with hearing protection significantly reduce or eliminate the number of scenarios in which workers would need to be within 6 feet of each other.

These devices mean teams can still meet productively while maintaining safe distances and wearing masks. Social distancing requirements don’t have to hurt productivity or communication quality.

6. Ability to use Bluetooth® or Mesh Intercom™ systems

incorporating communication technology with integrated hearing protection makes it possible to use either Bluetooth or Mesh Intercom. Wireless communication networks that use Bluetooth or Mesh technology are independent from wi-fi and cellular signals and do not require electricity or IT support to set up. Bluetooth Intercom systems connect up to four people, offering a good solution for smaller teams. Mesh Intercom systems can connect a large number of people, providing an ideal structure for larger or spread out teams since each device that is connected strengthens and expands the mesh network.

7. Lower worker stress and uncertainty

Clear, concise communication on the job reduces the level of uncertainty in daily work. The higher quality communication attained with integrated headsets improves the confidence workers have in the directions or answers they are given from team leaders or coworkers. Incorporating integrated communication and hearing protection limits the overall number of disruptions, especially startling disruptions, in these environments that add to worker stress.

8. Enhanced flexibility and availability of team leaders

Large worksites mean that supervisors may be far away when workers need them. Rather than searching for them, workers can simply speak into their headsets and ask for help. Supervisors can essentially be in multiple places at once and be available to their entire teams.

Integrated headsets also offer training advantages. Being able to observe and instruct from a distance is critical in today’s environment. On-the-job training is much easier when workers can hear instruction without excessive environmental noise. Additionally, group communication with these devices makes training multiple people at once easy.

9. Independence from cellular and wi-fi

Wi-fi and cellular signals may not always be dependable, for worksites that rely on mobile devices, it is especially unreliable from risk of workers not hearing their device or the chance for spotty signals. This independence is beneficial for teams that do not always work in the same location. Using a Bluetooth or Mesh Intercom system, means workers can simply turn on their headsets and they are not only wearing their PPE, but are also able to communicate immediately.

In extreme situations such as natural disasters, independence from these signals and electricity can be crucial. Workers at a bottling plant in Central America were wearing integrated headsets during a typical workday when an earthquake struck. The quake knocked out power and other communication methods, but their Mesh-connected headsets meant that all members of the team could be accounted for quickly and instructed on next steps.

Invest in tech

Any work environment where personnel are wearing hearing protection creates a challenge for communication. Investing in communication technology with integrated hearing protection eliminates most communication challenges, improves productivity and protects workers.