Q&A - Hearing protection
How do I motivate my employees to take our hearing conservation program seriously? They are accustomed to loud noise and do not see the risk.
ANSWERS:The program will be successful only if it is voluntary. A successful hearing conservation program consists of:
- proper training on the use and care of the protective device
- an educational program informing employees on the effect of prolonged exposure to high noise levels. They must know that they should not commit auditory suicide!
- a regular noise exposure monitoring schedule
- new ways to reduce noise at the source when possible
- periodic hearing tests that provide records that make it possible to detect changes in hearing ability
- results that should be shared with all employees.
Roger Paquette, Product Manager, Head, Eye and Hearing Protection, North Safety Products
Proven fact: If you choose not to wear hearing protection you are inviting deafness. Hearing damage usually happens slowly, unnoticed. And it can be caused by low volume noise levels that are not even uncomfortable. You may be used to them, work through them. It may take years before the total damage is realized. Eventually you canâ€™t hear certain sounds. You turn the volume up louder than others desire. You strain to hear conversation. You miss things. Hearing protection may be a temporary inconvenience but not being able to hear is a permanent one! Donâ€™t be dumb; wear hearing protection.
Mikal Johansen, Industrial Specialist, RidgeLine, Inc.
Educate workers about noise levels. Intensity of sound is measured in decibels (dB). The scale runs from the faintest sound the human ear can detect, which is labeled 0 dB, to over 180 dB, the noise at a rocket pad during launch.
Many experts agree that continual exposure to more than 85 decibels is dangerous. Habitual exposure to noise above 85 dB will cause a gradual hearing loss in a significant number of individuals, and louder noises will accelerate this damage.
The highest permissible noise exposure for the unprotected ear is 115 dB for 15 minutes/day. Any noise above 140 dB is not permitted.
OSHAâ€™s hearing conservation amendment of 1983 requires hearing conservation programs in noisy work places. This includes a yearly hearing test for the approximately five million workers exposed to an average of 85 dB or more of noise during an 8-hour work day.
Ideally, noisy machinery and work places should be engineered to be more quiet or the workerâ€™s time in the noise should be reduced; however, the cost of these actions is often prohibitive. As an alternative, individual hearing protectors are required when noise averages more than 90 dB during an 8-hour day.
Jim Byrne, Product Line Manager, Head, Eye & Face and Hearing Protection, MSA
The most important thing to understand about hearing loss is that itâ€™s quantitative. This means that constant exposure to noise over time will gradually cause you to lose your hearing. Hearing protection can be hot, cumbersome and inconvenient but wearing it at the right time will make a huge difference. Strategically placed, well illuminated educational warning signage activated by pre-programmed type II area sound level meters serve the dual purpose of educating employees while alerting them to a level of danger they might not readily perceive.
John Oâ€™Brien, Applications Engineer, Extech Instruments
The best way to involve people in the discussion is to relate it to things weâ€™ve all experienced. For example, the ringing in our ears that weâ€™ve all felt leaving a club or sporting event is an indicator of noise exposure and hearing damage. Almost everyone has experienced this. Itâ€™s also useful to have people think about their favorite music or most calming sounds, or the voice of someone close to them. Then ask how theyâ€™d feel if they could never hear that sound again. The more we can personalize the impact of hearing loss for people in real-life ways, the easier it is to help them â€œgetâ€ the hearing protection message.
Bill Sokol, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group