Comfort, performance, fit testing and training are some of the topics covered in this month's special issue ofNoise and Healthmagazine, which covers the latest research findings on hearing protection devices.

“It appears that the hearing protection device (HPD) will be a fixture of hearing loss prevention programs for the foreseeable future,” wrotes Rickie R. Davis, a senior research scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Davis wrote the guest editorial for the special March-April 2011 issue of the peer-reviewed journal. “The perception in industry is that it is more cost-effective to place workers in hearing loss prevention programs wearing hearing protection devices than to quiet the environment to safe levels.

Davis, who also serves as lead author for one of the articles, is one of a number of NIOSH scientists featured in the magazine. Others who are lead authors or co-authors of articles in the issue are David C. Byrne, Janet J. Ehlers, Pamela S. Graydon, William J. Murphy, Peter B. Shaw, Carol Merry Stephenson, and Mark R. Stephenson.

Articles in the issue cover comfort comparisons between foam plugs and wax plugs, new research on detection and localization of backup alarms while wearing different types of hearing protection and the effectiveness of various types of training.

"Hearing protectors are critical components of hearing-loss prevention in many workplaces, but in order to offer adequate protection, they must be selected and used properly," NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., noted. "NIOSH and its partners lead national research to develop findings and recommendations that help health and safety professionals, employers, and workers to make those important decisions."

The March-April issue of Noise and Health is available online