Loud noise on the job are at increased risk for hypertension and high cholesterol

May 22, 2018

Cincinnati — Workers exposed to loud noise on the job are at increased risk for hypertension and high cholesterol – key risk factors for heart disease – according to a recent study from NIOSH.

worker-hivis-jackhammer

Using 2014 National Health Interview Survey data of nearly 23,000 workers, researchers estimated the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations. They also looked at the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

The researchers found a link between a history of noise exposure at work and a significantly elevated risk of both high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Other findings:

  • The industries with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were mining (61 percent), construction (51 percent) and manufacturing (47 percent).
  • Occupations with the highest prevalence of occupational noise exposure were production (55 percent); construction and extraction (54 percent); and installation, maintenance and repair (54 percent).
  • Occupational noise exposure contributed to 58 percent of hearing difficulty cases, 14 percent of hypertension cases and 9 percent of elevated cholesterol cases.

“This study provides further evidence of an association of occupational noise exposure with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the potential to prevent these conditions if noise is reduced,” Elizabeth Masterson, study lead author and NIOSH epidemiologist, said in a March 21 press release. “It is important that workers be screened regularly for these conditions in the workplace or through a health care provider so interventions can occur. As these conditions are more common among noise-exposed workers, they could especially benefit from these screenings.”

Safety

The study was published online March 14 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

SOURCE:

Edmonton Motorcycle Show

January 12, 2018

Get Your Fix @ The Edmonton Motorcycle Show

When the snow starts flying, where can you go to get your fix of two-wheel, three-wheel and four-wheel action!

THE 2018 EDMONTON MOTORCYCLE SHOW – the ultimate get-together for riders and future riders.

See all the NEW 2018 motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and side-by-sides, all under one roof.  Meet tons of experts, check out the latest gear and apparel, and get all-revved up for your next adventure!

Edmonton-MotorCycle

Whether you’re a hardcore rider or a recreational enthusiast, a curious fan or just tired of the cold winter weather, The 2018 Edmonton Motorcycle Show has got you covered!

Come See Custom Protect Ear and get fitted for dB Blockers today!

 

 

 

6 Health & Safety Workplace trends for 2018

January 11, 2018

With 2017 behind us, Health and Safety in the workplace still appear to be one of the leading overhead expenses and key issues amongst employers and companies.

Those companies facing challenges of Health and Safety continue to struggle as they move into the New Year. It is important for Employers that already have existing Health and Safety Standards, plans and programs in place, to maintain their momentum by taking time to consider other H & S challenges that may also impact their workplace.

The challenges companies face may be part of the following trends:

  1. Increased Focus on Employee Health and Wellness

 Stress has become a fact of life for today’s average employee—whether it is caused by increasing workplace demands, a changing industrial workforce organizational environment, or economic hardships. Stress in the workplace is an ongoing trend that seems to impact employees and employers in all workplace settings.

“With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and student loan debt at over $1.4 trillion, workers are struggling and it’s affecting their health. Workers are stressed out, burned out and it’s affecting not only their productivity but their satisfaction on the job.”

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health continues to emphasize that work-related stress disorders are expected to rise as the economy continues to undergo various shifts and impacts. Therefore, companies should take steps to ensure that any current programs are robust enough to reduce the concerns associated with stress in the workplace, as well as implement any new programs that show an increased effectiveness at reducing the generation of stress.

  1. Capturing the Voice of the Employee: 

Employees’ voices will become more important to organizations this year as they focus on collecting employee feedback more employee feedback frequently, utilizing innovations for capturing that feedback, and acting to drive engagement based on those results. In 2016 & 2017 more organizations implemented some sort of Employee Engagement program to capture the employee voice and concern through a series of quantitative surveys and continuous listening/pulse surveys and examining passive data for employee opinions and behaviors. As the workforce shifts from one generation to the next, we will see an increase in Employee Engagement and Feedback.

  1. Companies will focus on upskilling and retraining current workers: 

“While the political discussion is focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, and the news media continues to publish articles on how automation will eliminate jobs, what we should really be focused on is the growing skills gap. There are currently 6.2 million job openings in America that are unfilled, which is up from 5.6 million during the same time in 2016. Companies can’t find the right workers,  that have the right skills, at the right time, which has slowed growth in the economy. Employers will be investing more money into their training and development programs in 2018 to fill their skills gaps and reach their full capacity.”

  1. Leveraging Big Data to Make Data-Driven Risk Management Decisions

Big data has been one of the biggest organizational buzz words for several years, but data is not of much use without acting on it. This year, we will see organizations work to tie all their data to workforce planning to make better, informed business and workforce decisions. Data-based strategic decision making will go beyond data analytics to create meaningful data-based action plans.

“2017 saw a continued trend in developing internal risk management programs and systems, and 2018 looks to be the year where many of these programs are leveraged for results across the company spectrum. In other words, sufficient time has occurred for the internal development of risk management data and effectiveness that this can now be translated directly into specific areas of the business to further reduce inherent risk development within the company.”1

  1. Addressing the Changing Nature of the Workforce:  

As Baby Boomers continue to retire and younger generations enter the workforce, organizations’ demographics will evolve, with industrail workforce lasting implications for organizational culture and management. Millennials and later generations have reshaped the workplace in a multitude of ways and will continue to push boundaries and redefine expectations as they take on a more prominent role within organizations. Organizations may need to continue to redesign jobs and workspace to accommodate Millennials.

  1. Safety Personnel Hiring Requirements

Over the past few years, we have seen a projected increase in the demand for safety personnel at all levels. Several different types of roles have entered the market specializing in the Occupational Health and Safety niche. These roles will replace operational and human resource roles and consist of some of these titles:

Occupational Health Safety Officer

  • Occupational Safety and Health Specialist.
  • health & Safety Safety Engineer.
  • Safety Consultant.
  • Coordinator of Loss Control.
  • Safety Manager.
  • Risk Manager.
  • Industrial Hygienist

In 2018 we are expected to see these roles become more specific to hiring requirements as many companies evaluate the need for an emphasis on education or experience. For larger companies, the distinction may not be apparent but the difference could be impactful for smaller companies or those in unique circumstances.

As we have seen the workplace dynamics shift over the past decade the one thing that is consistent: organizations are finding ways to improve the health and wellness of their employees in all industries. As we embark on new technology such as automation, artificial intelligence and 3D software, the one constant that remains is that implementation and usage still require people to operate and manage, creating a different type of skilled workforce and employees. As this need becomes more prominent and clear – more organizations will invest in and retain their workforce.

The ProtectEar Team


SOURCE

https://workforceinstitute.org/5-workplace-trends-youll-see-in-2018/

https://www.proformasafety.com/hse-trends-to-expect-in-2018/

https://www.ishn.com/articles/105531-top-10-workplace-trends-list-for-2017

1 https://www.proformasafety.com/hse-trends-to-expect-in-2018/

 

Hurricane Harvey

September 7, 2017
Residents of Rockport, Texas survey damage from Hurricane Harvey.

Tens of thousands of traumatized evacuees, many with nothing but the clothes on their backs, face uncertain futures in Harvey’s aftermath. Aid groups are working tirelessly to provide shelter, emergency services, and hope.

Help the Hurricane Harvey Victims

Donate blood: The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center desperately needs more than 2,000 units of blood. The biggest need is for O positive and O negative. A list of locations to donate blood can be found here.
Donate food and clothing: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is asking people to donate clothing, medical supplies, baby items, and food to nearby shelters. Feeding Texas is coordinating with local food banks to distribute food and cleaning supplies. The organization is asking people to drop off non-perishable food, bleach, and paper towels. The Texas Diaper Bank is seeking diaper donations.
You can mail them to:
5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Texas 78238 or drop them off at the same address.
Help with clean up: 
Austin Disaster Relief Network is asking for toiletries, inflatable mattresses, undergarments, and cleaning tools. They can be dropped off at the Hope Family Thrift Store in Austin. Volunteers can also sign up for cleaning efforts there. The Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group needs construction cleanup supplies — debris containers, truck cranes, forklifts, ladders, and nail guns.
Donate toys and supplies: 
Mayor Turner said many children inside the shelters need “things to do” and is asking people to donate coloring books, puzzles, and other toys to the shelters.

To all those so adversely affected by the wraths of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, our thoughts and prayers are with you – ProtectEar USA

What you should know about protecting your hearing this summer. 

June 10, 2017

What you should know about protecting your hearing this summer. 

Now that summer is just around the corner, it is important to know that there is more than just the sun to protect oneself from. Summer is filled with several outings and adventures where you may be exposed to loud noises. We don’t often think about the impact some activities can have on our hearing, so here are few to look out for this summer.

Driving in a convertible car:

Many of us are eager to hit the road during warmer months. During road trips, keep the stereo at a moderate volume, and don’t use music to drown out background noise. Opt for noise canceling earphones, instead.

Riding a motorcycle:

Riding motorcycles can make you happier … and hard of hearing

If you are a rider and say “motorcycle noise”, most people think of loud exhaust pipes. Savvy riders know there’s a much greater enemy — wind. Exposure to sound louder than 95 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing damage. Street riders on quiet bikes can expect wind noise to exceed 110 dB (even inside a good helmet); racers can expect 115 dB. Fifteen minutes of 110 dB a day, five days a week (can you say commute?) can cause up to a 30-percent hearing loss within a year. Your options: never ride faster than you can walk, use motorcycle personal ear plugs, or face a future with one of those ear trumpets glued to the side of your head.

Watching fireworks   fireworks

Be smart when you celebrate July 1st or the 4th of July festivities. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. And when watching the show, stay a safe distance away—where you can enjoy the colors and lights but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises.

To protect your hearing, make sure you’re wearing earplugs and that they’re securely in place before the show begins. Also be sure to keep them in for the entire show.

Jammin’ to loud music

Most of all, you should limit the length of time you spend in a noisy environment. When you do participate in noisy activities, alternate them with periods of quiet. And remember to use ear protection.

MusicRemember to “TURN it DOWN”

When listening to smartphones and other electronics, use them at a low volume. It is important to limit your use of headphones and ear buds. Remember, it’s not just the volume that matters. It is also the exposure or duration of time spent listening.

Taking a flight? Going on vacation?

Air travelers often complain about ear discomfort. When the plane is taking off or landing, yawn, swallow or chew gum to unplug your ears. If these tips aren’t effective, pinch your nostrils shut, inhale a mouthful of air, and direct the air back to your nose, as if you’re trying to gently blow, to equalize the pressure in your ears. Vented customized hearing protection devices can also help with the ear discomfort when the plane gets noisy.

flight

These are just a few activities to look out for and to remember to think twice about protecting your hearing this summer. To learn more about custom hearing protection and dB Blockers™, contact us today.

db Blockers

From all of us at ProtectEar, have a safe and protected summer.

 

Hearing Self-Test by Wayne Staab

April 19, 2017

Legalized OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids are expected as a hearing-impaired consumer option. One of the arguments against this practice is that the potential purchaser has not had an audiogram from which to determine the type and degree of hearing levels to assist in the selection of the appropriate hearing aid, if such is to be recommended. However, serious discussion exists relative to the real value of a pure-tone audiogram for such selection, perhaps for the majority of individuals, especially based on the way pure-tone testing is currently conducted.  What then, might be the role of a hearing self-test?


Predicting Hearing Level Without an Audiogram?

Aside from having an audiogram made, is it possible to somewhat “predict” an individual’s hearing levels? One skilled in the art can most likely draw a reasonable facsimile of a person’s audiogram just by conversing with them. Advertisements by both traditional and audiologist hearing aid dispensers have used paper and pencil questionnaires for years to “estimate” hearing levels in promotional materials to encourage consumers to utilize their services for more in-depth evaluation. Learn More.

 

Self-Test of Hearing – Paper and Pencil

A number of years ago this author designed a paper and pencil self-test of hearing. The test, in the form of a short questionnaire, was designed to allow a consumer to evaluate his/her ability to hear in different circumstances, and that their answers would help them better appreciate and understand their hearing status. They could make their own decision as to whether they wanted to follow through more specifically on the results of the test with whatever hearing testing facility they wanted. What the test was intended to do was to inform them about what they could expect of their hearing, based on their responses.  Because the person knew that their answers were personal, and that no one else would see them, they were likely to answer the questions more honestly than those questionnaires that request their personal information in order to get the results.  The intent of the self-test is to provide a rapid, but reasonably accurate understanding of the person’s hearing status.

Figures 2 provides the questionnaire and Figure 3 provides the scoring information.  The degree of loss as identified from the scoring chart, is explained in the text following the two figures.

 

Staying Bluetooth Connected and dB Blocker™ Protected!

April 17, 2017

Custom Protect Ear is proud to announce that wireless Bluetooth Connectivity is now available with dB Blockers™.  Custom Protect Ear now integrates its’ flagship product, dB Blocker™ custom earpieces, with 2 Jabra Bluetooth products providing users a better communication experience while staying protected in noise. Introducing the Jabra Halo Bluetooth and the Jabra Mini Bluetooth.

HALO:Jabra Halo

The Jabra Halo Bluetooth is a light-weight headset which easily attaches to the dB Blocker™ custom comfort earpieces. The Halo is compatible with Bluetooth enabled phones and radios and can pair with up to 8 devices. The Jabra headset coupled with a dB Blocker™ filtered earpiece will enhance voice reception while keeping the wearer protected in loud environments.

The Jabra Halo Bluetooth and dB Blocker™ earpieces are designed for maximum comfort and convenience, wireless connectivity and protection from damaging noise exposure.

Jabra Halo Headset features:

  • Remains connected to two devices at the same time
  • Rain and water resistant
  • Wind-protected, noise cancelling microphone
  • Operates in temperatures of -10°C to 55°C / 15°F to 140°F
  • Call vibration alert, voice button, answer call, end call, reject call
  • voice dialing & last number redial capability, volume control,
  • voice guidance
  • dB Blocker™ Convertible Vented Earpieces are

compatible with the Jabra Halo Smart headset

  • Battery Life

2 hour Charge Time: 17 hour Talk Time: 22 day Standby

MINI:

The Jabra Mini Bluetooth is a light weight Bluetooth unit supported Jabra Bluetoothby the dB Blocker™ custom comfort earpiece that can pair with up to 8 devices. The Jabra Mini is a smart device as it remains connected to two devices at the same time and has Voice dialing–activate the voice control on your mobile device with a press on the headset. The Jabra Mini and dB Blocker™ custom filtered earpieces bring “hands free” to a whole new level and all while still protecting your hearing.

Jabra Mini Bluetooth features:

  • Power Nap–battery saving mode
  • Battery and pairing status display
  • Operates in temperatures of -10°C to 55°C / 15°F to 140°F
  • Answer call, end call, Jabra status display™ displaying connection and battery status, voice guidance, multiuse™*
  • Battery Life

                    2 hour Charge Time: 9 hour Talk Time: 9 day Standby

These innovative products are available at Custom Protect Ear and ProtectEar USA. (Link to websites) The Jabra Bluetooth comes with a 1 Year manufacture warranty and the dB Blocker™ Custom Earpieces come with a 90 Day Fit Warranty & 3 Year Material Warranty.

About Custom Protect Ear

“The Smartest Hearing Protection in the World”  

For over four decades, Custom Protect Ear has been the leader in providing effective, verifiable, and noise level matched hearing protection at a cost lower than disposable ear plugs. Custom Protect Ear strives to meet and exceed the industry standards in hearing protection and communication by offering a comfortable, affordable and effective line of hearing protection and communication devices. Custom Protect Ear specializes in the manufacture of custom made hearing protectors.  Every dB Blocker™ is individually crafted for each unique ear based on a personal ear mold.

###

To learn more about dB Blocker™ custom earpieces, the Jabra Halo Bluetooth headset and Jabra Mini, please contact us at:

Laura Bennett
Director, Business Development
E. lbennett@protectear.com
TF. 1.800.520.0220 ext. 322
D. 604.635.3250

Noise Pollution – Yes it’s bad for your health

April 13, 2017

Noise Pollution: What is it

Every day, we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting.

The growing noise pollution problem has many different causes. Booming population growth and the loss of rural land to urban sprawl both play a role. Other causes include the lack of adequate anti-noise regulations in many parts of the world; the electronic nature of our age, which encourages many noisy gadgets; the rising number of vehicles on the roads; and busier airports.

noise pollution

What is Noise Pollution: Environmental Protection Agency

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency Noise Pollution is:

“The traditional definition of noise is “unwanted or disturbing sound”.  Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life.  The fact that you can’t see, taste or smell it may help explain why it has not received as much attention as other types of pollution, such as air pollution, or water pollution.  The air around us is constantly filled with sounds, yet most of us would probably not say we are surrounded by noise.  Though for some, the persistent and escalating sources of sound can often be considered an annoyance.  This “annoyance” can have major consequences, primarily to one’s overall health.”¹

In the 1970s, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a recommended noise exposure limit of 55 decibels in a 24-hour period, with nighttime noise weighted more heavily because it can interfere with sleep. For comparison, a quiet suburb has a decibel level of about 50, while freeway traffic is closer to 70 and a chain saw is 120 decibels.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long identified transportation—passenger vehicles, trains, buses, motorcycles, medium and heavy trucks, and aircraft—as one of the most pervasive outdoor noise sources, estimating in its 1981 Noise Effects Handbook that more than 100 million people in the United States are exposed to noise sources from traffic near their homes.

Noise pollution is an often-overlooked source of environmental stress that can raise your risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease. In the US it’s estimated that 100 million people are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise, typically from automobile and aircraft traffic (although everything from leaf blowers and lawnmowers to loud music can also contribute). If you find yourself exposed to noise pollution on a daily basis, we strongly suggest you protect your earing with two way communication Hearing Protection Devices such a dB Blockers.

Quieting Noise Pollution Could Save $3.9 Billion a Yearnoise

Noise pollution may increase your risk of hearing loss, stress, sleep disturbances, and heart disease. A new analysis conducted an environmental assessment of US noise pollution as a cardiovascular health hazard, and revealed small decreases in noise could add up to major economic savings.

The analyses suggested that a 5-decibel noise reduction would reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure by 1.4 percent and coronary heart disease by 1.8 percent. The annual economic benefit was estimated at $3.9 billion.3

The researchers assumed that noise exposure levels in 2013 were the same as those assessed in 1981. However, as urbanization has increased it’s likely these are underestimates and reductions in noise may impact even more people than the study suggested.

Silence is Golden

If you can’t avoid a noisy environment, should you play white noise in order to drown out the rest? White noise is a nondescript background hum, kind of like the noise of a fan or of someone saying “Shhhh!” continuously. Listening to white noise may turn out to be better than listening to intermittent speech if it successfully drowns out the speech, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. Learn more about how to protect yourself from noise.

 


SOURCES:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-title-iv-noise-pollution
  2. Senior author Richard L. Neitzel of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor told Reuters:
  3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/20/noise-pollution.aspx

 

 

 

How much do you love your hearing and why you should.

February 14, 2017

How much do you love your hearing and why you should.

Of all the five senses it seem that hearing is the most ignored and the most taken for granted. Our generation (Boomers, X&Y) have not done a very good job at preventing hearing loss until its too late.

Whether your 17 or 55 years old, we have all done some sort of damage to our hearing…. 

Some of us have worked in loud noisy places and haven’t really considered protecting our ears except with the odd foam earplug, which are only good for one shift. Or we have worked in an environment where the noise was gradual but still loud and did nothing to protect our hearing since it wasn’t top of mind.

Or how about everyday uses to protect your hearing from noise pollution. Over the past 10 years we all have been embracing iTunes, iPods, Podcasts, SmartPhones, Audiobooks etc. But have we really considered the extra strain all of these technological advances have impacted our ears? Well if you LOVE YOUR HEARING, then I suggest you start.  Remember we live with our hearing and we should love our hearing as it one of the 5 senses that allows to hear the wonderful things in life; things to consider next time you crank up that new hit song, or put in disposable instead of personal hearing protection.

Love your hearing

From all of us at ProtectEar USA – HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!


Basic Facts About Hearing Loss

  • About 20 percent of Americans, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss.
  • At age 65, one out of three people has a hearing loss.
  • 60 percent of the people with hearing loss are either in the work force or in educational settings.
  • While people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to their normal hearing peers, as the hearing loss increases, so does the reduction in compensation.
  • About 2-3 of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable hearing loss in one or both ears.
  • Almost 15% of school-age children (ages 6-19) have some degree of hearing loss.

SOURCE: http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss

The Quantification and Reporting of Hearing Protection Attenuation

February 8, 2017

ProtectEar has produced a series of three articles regarding the challenges to knowing how much protection is given to an associate in a hearing loss prevention program. This the 2nd article in the series, deals with the quantification and reporting of attenuation. The initial article dealt with the history of trying to measure and report attenuation. The final article deals with “After Hearing Loss Prevention, then what?” What are the next steps a firm can apply to go beyond the current practice in hearing loss prevention?

The Quantification and Reporting of Hearing Protection Attenuation

What is the NRR?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was charged by the Noise Control Act of 1972 with developing and enforcing regulations pertaining to Product Noise Labeling. As a result the EPA developed 40 CFR 211 Subpart B – Hearing Protective Devices, in which the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) was defined. The NRR is a single-number rating which has been required by law to be shown on the label of each hearing protective device (HPD) sold in the United States since 1979.

NRR

Before any HPD may be sold in the United States, the manufacturer or distributor must have it tested according to the requirements of the law, submit the data to the EPA, and provide the NRR along with corollary information on the HPD’s packaging. The NRR was intended to allow the consumer to select an HPD appropriate for the noises in which it would be used to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The law requires that the values of sound attenuation used for calculation of the NRR be determined in accordance with ANSI S3.19-1974. It matters not whether the HPD is intended for protection from occupational or recreational noise, or even to reduce the impact of traffic noise or the snoring of a partner on sleep, it must be labeled with the NRR label and corollary information.

Real-ear attenuation at threshold (REAT) is determined by carefully measuring the hearing thresholds of ten (10) normal-hearing members of a subject panel. Their hearing thresholds are measured for narrow bands of noise in a highly specified acoustic environment. Each subject is tested twice; ears open and ears occluded with the HPD being tested. The experimenter-fit method defined in ANSI S3.19 is used. Rather than allowing the subject to put on or remove the HPD, the experimenter fits the hearing protector to the ear of each test subject for each occluded test for what they consider is a best fit. REAT is the difference between the thresholds with the ears occluded and the ears open. Each subject repeats the paired open/occluded test three (3) times. Mean attenuations and standard deviations are calculated in accordance with the standard.

NoiseHealth_

The NRR calculation is specified by the EPA’s law, not the ANSI S3.19 standard. The NRR is computed from the mean attenuations and standard deviations of the attenuations for each of the nine (9) narrow bands of noise. The NRR is intended to predict the minimum amount of protection provided to 98% of potential users.

How has the NRR been used?

The Hearing Conservation Amendment to the Occupational Noise Standard (OSHA, 1983) describes six methods for using the NRR to determine a worker’s protected A-weighted noise exposure. These methods vary according to the instrumentation and parameters used to determine the unprotected noise levels. However, they can be summarized into two basic formulas, depending on whether unprotected exposure levels were measured on a C-weighted or an A-weighted scale. For C-weighted measurements:

Protected dBA = unprotected dBC – NRR

where the protected dBA and the unprotected dBC are 8-hour time-weighted average1s (TWA1s) determined according to the Occupational Noise Standard.

This method is how the NRR was designed to be used. For example, if a protector has an NRR of 17 dB and it is used for an TWA[i] of 95 dBC, the noise level entering the ear could be expected to be 78 dBA [95 – 17 = 78] or lower in 98% of the cases if the protector is worn according to manufacturer’s specification as fitted by the experimenter during the testing.

For A-weighted measurements:

protected dBA = unprotected dBA – [ NRR – 7]

Where, again, the protected and unprotected dBA are 8-hour time-weighted averages determined according to the Occupational Noise Standard (1093).

This method is an adaptation for those whose instrumentation does not have C-weighting capabilities. The 7-dB correction factor is used to account for the de-emphasis of low-frequency energy inherent to the A-weighting scale.

So, for example, if a protector has an NRR of 17 dB and it is used for an environmental noise exposure level of 95 dBA, the noise level entering the ear could be expected to be 85 dBA [95 – (17 – 7) = 85] or less in 98% of the cases.

Problems with the NRR

A study by Berger, Franks, and LIndgren, (1996) evaluated data from 22 studies of real-world REATs. They found that labeled NRRs for the HPDs studied over-estimated the reported REATs by as little as 5% and by as much as 2000%.

NIOSH reevaluated the data and consequently recommended derating the NRR by a multiplicative factor of 75% for earmuffs, 50% for slow-recovery formable earplugs, and 30% for all other earplugs (NIOSH, 1998). The NIOSH derating scheme did not affect the 7-decibel dBC-to-dBA correction as it was applied to the NRR only. Derating was not applied to custom-molded earplugs, however, so they may range from extremely effective (meeting labeled NRR) to completely ineffective (providing no protection at all). It all depends upon the quality of the impression and the quality assurance of the laboratory making the earplug.

OSHA’s approach to using the NRR, while recognizing the NIOSH derating scheme, is to derate the NRR by 50% regardless of hearing protector type when considering whether an HPD will provide adequate hearing protection for a given noise exposure level expressed as a TWA.

Thus, if the noise exposure level were made in dBA, most often the case, the protected exposure level for a 95-dBA exposure and an HPD with an NRR of 29 dB would be 84 dBA – [95 – ((29-7)/2)], 1 dB less than the OSHA Action Level (OSHA, 2016).

So, what do I do with the NRR?

The best approach is to recognize the NRR for what it is: a number derived from a laboratory test that for most pre-molded earplugs and formable (foam) earplugs represents a fitting that you and your employees will not achieve. OSHA’s approach as defined by CPL 02-02-03 dated December 16, 1983 is as follows:

  • Use the NRR as the laboratory-based noise reduction for a given hearing protector.
  • Apply a safety factor of 50 percent; i.e., divide the calculated laboratory-based attenuation by 2.
    • NOTE: This is a general method for taking into consideration OSHA experience and the published scientific literature, which indicate that laboratory-obtained attenuation data for hearing protectors are seldom achieved in the workplace.
    • If a different or no safety factor seems appropriate in a particular instance, it may be used instead. For example, for laboratory-made custom-molded earplugs, NIOSH recommended that no safety factor (derating) be applied.
  • The adjusted noise reduction should be sufficient to meet requirement that the protected noise exposure level be less than the OSHA Action Level of TWA < 85 dBA.

So, if you are using custom molded earplugs, you can take the NRR on the label at face value and apply it as suggested above without applying a safety factor or derating it. For the custom molded earplug, it seems to not matter whether the experimenter or the subject fits it for testing. The outcome is about the same[ii]. 

What is the NRR(SF)?

A New Rating: A new “subject fit” or naïve subject method of measuring HPD attenuation can be used to calculate a different rating; the NRR(SF). The people (subjects) in this laboratory test fit their own protector according to the manufacturer’s instructions without the help of the person conducting the test. While the subjects are very well trained in taking hearing tests, they do not use HPDs regularly, have not participated in an experimenter-fit procedure, and have only used a few HPDs without formal training (hence naïve subject). Compared to the NRR shown on the current EPA label, the NRR(SF) is usually a lower rating that may be closer to the performance of the hearing protector in the real world.

The NRR (SF) was developed by the National Hearing Conservation Association’s (NHCA) Task Force on Hearing Protector Effectiveness to address labeling related issues (Royster, 1995).

How do I use the NRR (SF)?

The NRR(SF) is intended to be used directly with A-weighted noise exposure levels. Thus, the NRR (SF) is subtracted from the A-weighted noise exposure to provide the protected exposure level:

Protected dBA = unprotected dBA – NRR(SF).

If the C-weighted noise exposure level is used, a 3-dB adjustment is made to account for predicted differences in the A and C levels (recent re-evaluations of the noise databases that were used to developed the NRR (SF) found the A- versus C weighted difference to be 3 dB, not 5 dB and not 7 dB).

Protected dBA = unprotected dBC -3 dB – NRR(SF).

Where can I find the NRR(SF)?

The adoption of the initial version of ANSI S12.6 in 1997 as the standard that replaced ANSI S3.19-1974 did not change the regulatory requirements that all protectors sold in the United States be labeled with the NRR as described above and obtained by testing according to the experimenter-fit method of ANSI S3.19-1974. After ANSI 12.6 was adopted and ANSI S3.19 was rescinded, many hearing protector manufacturers began testing their products in accordance with Method B, the subject-fit method. However, only a few manufacturers have released the data. As other jurisdictions outside of North America have started to demand data from testing procedures similar to Method B of ANSI S12.6, many companies have complied. The NRR(SF) is used in Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. Every HPD sold in Brazil is tested by an approved Brazilian laboratory by Method B of ANSI S12.6-1997 before the HPD may be sold in Brazil. Australia and New Zealand require every HPD sold in those countries to have been tested by Method B and then labeled accordingly with the NRR(SF), but the testing may be done by a laboratory anywhere.

A search of the Internet or direct inquiry with the company may result in access to Method B data and a value similar to the NRR(SF). The NIOSH online Hearing Protector Device Compendium lists most of the HPDs sold in the United States and shows the NRR(SF) for many of them. The Compendium also lists the Internet website for almost all the manufacturers, which may provide more information.

Can I legally use the NRR(SF)?

Yes. OSHA has recognized the NRR(SF) as an alternative the NRR as another way to apply a safety factor to the NRR.

If you are considering two devices, one of which has both an NRR and NRR(SF), select the device with the NRR(SF) and apply it to the equations above to determine if it can provide adequate protection.

The best value for protected level is between 70 and 80 dBA. A protected level of less than 70 dBA indicates potential over protection. A person who is overprotected may be isolated from the larger acoustic environment, unable to hear warning signals and fellow workers. As such, the overprotected worker can be a safety hazard. There are reports of workers being injured and killed because they were unable to hear warning signals or the sound of approaching vehicles because they were wearing HPDs that provided too much attenuation. The primary complaint that workers have reported about used HPDs are that they can’t hear fellow employees talking to them and that they can’t hear their equipment. It isn’t unusual to see a worker lift an earmuff cup or remove an earplug to talk with a fellow worker, and then replace it, a type of action that undoes the effectiveness of the HPD. Carefully selecting HPDs to avoid overprotection could also ameliorate the hazard potentials and worker attempts to work around using HPDs.

If the protected value is above 80 dBA, the worker will be under protected. Under protection can result in the development of NIHL despite using the HPD.  NIHL is insidious. It starts gradually and will generally go unnoticed until the hearing loss begins to interfere with communication. NIOSH’s definition of material hearing impairment (Franks, et al., 1998) is such that a person can suffer a change in hearing up to the point of developing a material impairment without noticing any change in day-to-day auditory function. Beyond that point, the hearing loss becomes an impairment. NIHL will usually cross the line from loss to impairment within the first five years of exposure. It is often observed that under protected workers develop NIIHL.

Any hearing loss prevention program that relies upon the NRR(SF) instead of the NRR and insures that workers are neither under or over protected will be successful in preventing NIHL and will have no problems with OSHA nor another other regulatory agency.


References

American National Standards Institute. (1974) American National Standard for the Measurement of Real-Ear Hearing Protectors and Physical Attenuation of Earmuffs. ANSI S3.19-1974, American National Standards Institute, New York, NY.

American National Standards Institute. (1997) Methods for Measuring the real-ear attenuation of hearing protectors. ANSI S12.6-1997 American National Standards Institute, New York, NY.

Berger, E.H., Franks, J.R., and Lindgren, F., International Review of Field Studies of Hearing Protector Attenuation, In A Axelsson (Ed), Scientific Bases of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, Chernow Editorial Services, Inc, New York, 1996

Environmental Protection Agency. (1979). 4 0 CFR Part 211 – Product noise labeling, Subpart B – Hearing protective devices. 44 Federal Register 56139-56147.

Franks, JR. Merry, CJ Stephenson, MR, Themann, CL, Prince, MM, Smith, RJ, Stayner, LT, and Gilbert.SJ (primary authors) Chan, HS (document manager). Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Noise Exposure, Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) 98-126, Cincinnati, OH (1998)

Johnson DL and Nixon CW (1974) Simplified methods for estimating hearing protector performance. Sound and Vib 8(6):20-27.

Kroes P, Fleming R; Lempert B. (1975). List of personal hearing protectors and attenuation data, NIOSH Technical Report, HEW Publication No. (NIOSH) 76-120.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (2016) Hearing Protective Device Compendium. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/hpdcomp/.

Royster LH. (1995). In search of a meaningful measure of hearing protector effectiveness; Recommendations of the NHCA’s task force on hearing protector effectiveness. Spectrum 12(2):1, 6-13.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (1983). Occupational Noise Exposure: Hearing Conservation Amendment; Final Rule. 48(46) Federal Register 9738-9785.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (1983). 29 CFR 1910.95(b)(1), Guidelines for Noise Enforcement; Appendix A.

U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2016). OSHA Technical Manual: https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/new_noise/index.html

[i] Time Weighted Average –The permissible exposure limit (PEL or OSHA PEL) is a  legal limit in the United States for exposure of an employee to a chemical substance or physical agent such as loud noise. A PEL is usually given as a time-weighted average (TWA), A TWA is the average exposure over a specified period, usually a nominal eight hours. For noise, the PEL is a TWA8 of 90 dBA with an excursion limit of 115 dBA. The TWA involves a trading ratio of time and intensity, which for noise is 5 dB so that the allowable exposure time doubles or halves as the sound level decreases or increases by 5 dB.


These articles were written for ProtectEar by Dr. John R. Franks, former Chief of the Hearing Loss Prevention Section of the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH

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