How much is a Noisy Workplace actually costing you?

April 25, 2017

Good communication is vital to running a safe and efficient worksite or workplace. But, how do you achieve that amid the noise and multifaceted demands of the average noisy workplace?

Construction sites, Manufacturing Plants, Food Assembly Lines and Shop Floors are typically characterized by loud equipment in constant motion and limited visibility. In this environment, a missed warning or misunderstood instruction can have costly—or even tragic—consequences.

Car Plant
Example: Workers wearing no hearing protection in a Chrysler car plant.

Cost of Noise

How do you know if your workplace is loud enough to require hearing protection. If you meet 2 out of 6 criteria below, then your company needs to re-evaluate their Hearing Conservation Plan.

  1. Your productivity is being seriously impacted.
  2. Your cost of goods are rising from mistakes.
  3. You’re spending at least $310/year for every employee in your hearing conservation program.
  4. Your Risk Management costs are rising
  5. Hearing protection alone is costing you $150/person/year
  6. Supervisors spending an extra 30 minutes a day trying to communicate in noise – @ $30.00/hour

If this is applicable to you, then most likely your incurring a extra cost of  $4,000/year. You do the Math!


What is the Cost of Noise

Industrial Hearing loss

All of this is the Cost of Noise. The Cost of Noise is hearing loss, productivity and risk management. 

The cost of noise saps productivity and adds expense to companies.  Reduce or control the cost of noise and profits will flow straight to the bottom line.  It is a competitive advantage and many companies have recognized it. If you and your company want to do something about the cost of noise, ask us about about dB Blockers.

What are dB Blockers™

dB Blockers and they’re the SMARTEST HEARING PROTECTION In the World.  Why smart? Inside each dB Blocker there is a little green filter, which filters out industrial noise and enhances speech. And it is also really a  communication device. You wear these to protect your hearing and they’ll let you hear people talking to you.

Thanks to recent advancements in technology through SMART (custom) hearing devices, and wireless communication headsets, the costs of communication, productivity and safety has decreased significantly.

 The benefits of dB Blockers™ 

  • clear and continuous communication during the performance of shared tasks
  • improved teamwork and increased mobilitydB-blocker-
  • the ability to provide verbal warnings in real time
  • fewer accidents and lower insurance costs
  • the ability for construction crews to get more done in less time

By adopting dB Blocker™ hearing devices an integral component of worksite communication, companies will not only enjoy a safer work environment, but also develop a more cohesive and productive crew.

dB Blocker™ Classic Intercanal (Vented). Learn More.
dB Blocker™ Classic Intercanal (Vented). Learn More.

 

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

While Riding, what’s in your ears …

March 24, 2017

While Riding, what’s in your ears …

It’s time to make some noise about hearing protection.

“Most motorcyclists are diligent about wearing helmets and sturdy apparel to protect the parts of our bodies that are most likely to get injured in an accident. However, there is a part of your body that may be suffering damage every time you ride, even if you never fall down—your ears. As riders we are regularly exposed to noise levels that put us at risk of permanent hearing loss, the same as industrial workers, heavy metal musicians, and machine gunners.”

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, noise induced Hearing loss is the most common permanent and preventable occupational injury in the world. Hearing loss can occur from a single extremely loud sound such as an explosion, but more often than not it’s incurred gradually over time. Just as skin cancer usually grows as a result of regular exposure to the sun, noise induced hearing loss is most commonly the result of repeated and prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels. The unfortunate reality is that riding a motorcycle is a noisy endeavor, and the more you do it, the more likely you are to damage your hearing.

 The most widely recognized resource for recommendations on noise exposure limits is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA offers a sliding scale showing that the louder the noise, the shorter the time your ears can safely be exposed to it. Noise intensity is measured in decibels and the decibel scale is logarithmic, so a noise that registers at 70 decibels (say, a vacuum cleaner) is 10 times louder than normal conversation, which typically rings in at 60 decibels. Sounds above 120 decibels (an ambulance siren) may be painful to hear and so would clearly pose a risk to your hearing health, but OSHA says permanent hearing loss can occur with sustained exposure (more than eight hours) above 85 decibels, or roughly the sound of a lawnmower—or the noise level inside your helmet while riding down the road at 65 mph.[1]

hearing protection for riders

 

There is a lot of  discussion about wearing ear plugs while riding a motorcycles; several opinions surface around whether or not doing it is a good idea. Amongst riders,  like so many other elements of this sport, the use of ear plugs while riding tends to be a controversial topic; many riders swear by using ear plugs, but many others refuse to do it, wanting to be as connected their bike and traffic conditions as possible to enhance their safety. The truth is, however, that most riders on both sides of the debate are under-informed about what the real threats to your hearing are while riding, and how hearing protection actually works.

We found some myths that have been documented for riders to think about when making their decision whether or not to use hearing protection. It is important that riders understand that the so called ambient wind noise is the silent killer and what you can do about it before it hurts your hearing.

Common Myths about Hearing Protection while riding a motorcycle [2]

Myth #1: You can’t hear traffic hazards, sirens, your bike, or other important sounds while wearing hearing protection. 

Wearing ear plugs does block sound, but the way it actually affects your hearing is counter-intuitive.

The real killer of hearing, and what we are trying to prevent while riding, is wind noise; the continuous, high-frequency sound created as you rush through the air at riding speeds. What we want to hear are low-frequency sounds, things like cars around us, engine RPM, and approaching sirens.

Because wind noise beats on your ears non-stop while you ride, it creates a condition called temporary threshold shift (also referred to as TTS), which is a temporary hearing loss that results from continuous over-exposure to sound (we’ve all experienced this at a concert, races, when operating machinery, etc.) In other words, you go partially deaf for a while after an extended period of riding.

That temporary deafness is even more dangerous to your safety on the road than wearing ear plugs, because it affects all frequencies of hearing. Proper hearing protection prevents that from happening, and cuts high-frequency wind noise while still allowing important low-frequency sounds to be heard.

Ask about our dB Blockers made especially made for riding.

Myth #2: You only need to wear hearing protection if you have a loud bike.

Naturally, loud bikes are more likely to create hearing damage than quiet bikes, when revving or accelerating for example. But once again, the biggest danger to your hearing while riding is wind noise, and it piles up a lot faster than you think. Whether you ride a thunderous V-twin or a stock 250, the sound of your bike is minuscule when compared to the volume of wind noise, which is usually around the 100-110dB range at highway speeds. It is a constant, high-frequency sound; the type that is the biggest threat to your hearing, as you tend to not notice it slowly beating your eardrums to death.

Myth #3: You don’t need to wear hearing protection if you wear a full-face helmet.

True, wearing a full-face helmet does cut exposure to sound, but to degree that is not significant with respect to hearing damage. Check out these numbers: different studies show a reduction in the range of 5-10dB when wearing a full-face helmet; but at 100dB-plus levels found at normal highway speeds, this is still well within the territory of permanent hearing damage. Some helmets flow air so well, the wind noise can actually be almost equal to that of not using a helmet at all!

Protect Ear USA provides personalized industrial earplugs that matters to both, the individual as well as the organization, because of the benefits that proper hearing protection can offer. dB Blockers custom molded earplugs are commonly used in the following industries and environments, learn more about two way hearing protection. 

Myth #4: A windshield/fairings will cut wind noise enough.

Much like the difference between full-face and half-helmets, there is a reduction in sound level, but not to a significant degree. Depending on the style of windshield or fairings, and the height of the rider and his body position, the resulting turbulence may mean there is hardly any reduction in noise at all. Rehearing protection for ridersducing ambient noise is a concern for some riders. If you plug your ears, how will you hear your bike’s engine or, more importantly, monitor traffic around you? Learn more about hearing protection you can actually hear    through… dB Blockers. 

dB Com™ X-Treme Headset (Intrinsically Safe)dB Blocker Grip Non vented

Wind noise while motorcycle riding regularly exceeds the levels at which hearing damage will occur. Protect your hearing without blocking the sounds you want to hear with Custom hearing protection, All Sport dB Blockers. 

All Sport

 

SOURCES


[1] It’s time to make some noise about hearing protection. By ARI HENNING NOVEMBER 1, 2016

[2]Common Myths about Hearing Protection: www.bikebandit.com/blog/post/motorcycle-ear-plugs

 

Young construction workers less likely to protect hearing says WorkSafeBC

March 13, 2017

Young construction workers less likely to protect hearing says WorkSafeBC

by THE CANADIAN PRESS

RICHMOND (NEWS1130) – The organization that regulates health and safety in British Columbia workplaces reports almost one in four young construction workers is not doing enough to protect against hearing loss.

New data from WorkSafeBC shows 24 per cent of construction workers aged 21 or under don’t wear hearing protection.

That compares with 13 per cent of construction workers who don’t use hearing protection over the age of 50 and 11 per cent in all other age groups in the industry.

WorkSafe says young workers in construction are also less likely to wear hearing protection than young employees in other industries, such as manufacturing and primary resources.

The data was collected last year from more than 160,000 hearing tests conducted by BC employers as part of hearing loss prevention programs required by WorkSafeBC.

Occupational audiologist Sasha Brown says noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by a single loud noise or by repeated exposure to consistent noise, and it must be taken very seriously.

Read Article. 

Generation Deaf: Millennials

AC/DC rocked the rock ‘n ‘roll world when they postponed further tour dates due to concern for lead singer Brian Johnson’s hearing. As it turns out, the hearing problems facing Johnson – the 68-year-old front man for the famously loud rock legends – may also face millions of millennials throughout the world in the near and distant future.

For Baby Boomers, you had to attend THE WHO concert to get damaged hearing.

For Generation X, it was AC/DC, but now ear-shattering decibels are available with ear buds.

Johnson’s ears are a miracle in having lasted this long, they have been through noises ranging from race cars to concerts for decades. Yet last year a different WHO, the World Health Organization rather than the band, claimed that about 1.1 billion young people worldwide face the risk of hearing loss. The culprits are no longer just noisy venues, but also music players.

In their analysis, the WHO found that almost half of those ages 12 to 35  listen to their music players at unsafe volumes, while around 40 percent expose themselves to very loud events such as concerts.


Hearing Loss Case Study

Hearing loss began early for Josh Musto, triggered at first by a heavy metal concert and worsened by years of playing guitar in two bands. Listening to loud music constantly through ear buds may be to blame for a ringing in his ears.

“I’ve been a musician forever,” said Musto, now 21 and a junior at the New School in New York City. “There’s a lot of noise in my life.”

Josh Musto, a music student at New York City’s New School, is an intern at SiriusXM radio. Mayra Ramales

Musto is not alone. Doctors warn that a steady onslaught of loud noise, particularly through ear buds, is damaging the hearing of a generation wired for sound — although they may not realize it for years.

Earlier this year the World Health Organization warned that 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because of personal audio devices, such as smartphones, and damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues like electronic dance music festivals, where noise levels can top 120 decibels for hours.

“Probably the largest cause [of hearing damage] is millennials using iPods and [smartphones],” says Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, an ear, nose, and throat specialist from Munster, Indiana.

Hearing loss among today’s teens is about 30 percent higher than in the 1980s and 1990s, Cherukuri estimates.

“You (once) had a Walkman with two AA batteries and headphone thongs that went over your ears,” he told NBC News. “At high volume, the sound was so distorted and the battery life was poor. Nowadays, we have smart phones that are extremely complex computers with high-level fidelity.”

Cherukuri tells young patients to stop wearing headphones — especially earbuds, which place the sound closer to the ear drum, enhancing volume by as much as 9 decibels. Learn more about custom personal hearing protection. 

“It’s very easy to achieve unknowingly,” he said.

TODAY

According to the National Institutes of Health, repeated exposure to sound over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Permanent damage can happen in minutes, experts say, and when the damage is done, it’s irreversible.

Noise exposure in kids is a growing concern,” said Nicole Raia, a clinical audiologist at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. Raia said she sees more tinnitus in young people, an early sign of hearing loss, but, “we don’t catch them until they are in their 20s and 30s.” And because audio-screening protocols are not that sophisticated, many children with subtle damage pass hearing tests, she added.

Read Full Article.

 

How to Protect your hearing and Protection Devices in cold weather

March 8, 2017

Can you believe its March and some places are still getting snow!  For those of you living in the west coast you may be having an extended winter with unpredictable weather changes. Although uncertain uncertain environment brings stress and anxiety it also brings extra caution and attention to details.


How to Protect your hearing and Protection Devices in cold weather

Located in Surrey BC – Custom Protect Ear has experienced a long not average WINTER. Just when you think spring is around the corner it seems to snow again. They are calling it SNOWMAGEDON here is the province of BC. So in this kind of cold there are a few precautions you should take to avoid unnecessarily damaging your hearing aids and protection during the cold, winter months.

Ear infections

Winter brings a higher risk of ear infection, in both children and adults, for several reasons. One of these reasons is that less blood is circulated in the cold; add that to greater risk of irritation, trapped moisture or bacteria and you have a recipe for a painful condition known as otitis media.
Ear infections are inflammations of the middle ear which result from a cold, an infection or presence of a virus or bacteria. Infected material builds up behind the eardrum and blocks the Eustachian tube. Antibiotics can treat most ear infections but until the fluid is cleared, untreated temporary hearing loss can result. Be sure to treat colds and flu immediately with rest, medication and plenty of fluids, and if you suspect an ear infection see a doctor immediately to prevent hearing damage.
You can reduce your risk of ear infections by keeping your ears warm and dry when you are outside in winter weather. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising to improve blood circulation can also be helpful, especially in the winter months when resistance to infection is lower.

Extreme cold

It turns out earmuffs, hats, and scarves are not just fashion accessories. Excessive exposure to extreme cold and wet conditions can lead to a condition known as exostosis. Also known as “surfer’s ear” due to the condition being especially prevalent in those who spend time in or around cold water, exostosis results when exposure to the cold causes knobs of bony growth to appear on the bone surrounding the ear canal. As a result the ear canal can become blocked, which increases risk of infection due to trapped fluid. While the condition can be corrected surgically, avid skiers, snowmobilers or snowshoers should make sure to keep their ears warm, dry and covered to reduce their risk.

Protect your hearing aids

Hearing aids are especially susceptible to harsh winter elements, so wearing hats, scarves or earmuffs can not only protect your hearing, but your hearing aids as well. Wind, rain, cold and freezing temperatures can shorten battery life as well as allowing moisture to build up in your hearing aids. Keeping hearing aids warm and dry with a hat or earmuffs is a good idea, but keep in mind that if you wear those you might sweat, which will also cause moisture to build up in the hearing aids. An effective solution is to use a dry-aid kit overnight after removing batteries.

Indoor sports arenas

For many people, winter means spending time in arenas watching their favourite sports like basketball or hockey. But beware, because the decibels indoor arenas can, and often do, reach dangerous levels. And it is not an accident; arenas pride themselves on their fans’ enthusiasm and claim bragging rights for reaching record-breaking decibel levels. Some arenas can reach levels in excess of 120 decibels, which according to experts isHearing in cold weather enough to cause immediate damage. Even if the damage isn’t felt immediately, noise damage accumulates over time. So be sure to take along hearing protection; check out dB Blockers a long term, cost effective solution. Placed correctly, these custom earplugs will reduce the harmful vibrations from excessive noise and help save your hearing down the road.

 

Help Your Hearing, Improve Your Social Life, Get Healthier – QUALITY OF LIFE

February 24, 2017

Good hearing keeps you in the game, but how much is good social activity worth?

Various studies have linked social connections to better health and longer life, but it hasn’t been clear whether healthy people were more socially active to begin with.  A  review of 148 studies from researchers at Brigham Young University looked at healthy people who were followed for 7.5 years, on average.  The study(ies) controlled for the health of the subjects.

The results showed that the value of social interaction was stronger and than you might thing.  Based on the data from these studies,  weak social ties in your community are a major risk factor to your health,  at least as harmful to your health as smoking, lack of exercise or obesity. For instance:

  1.  You have a 50% lower risk of dying if you have close friends, family or work relationships.
  2.  Poor socialization threatens your health as much as if you were an alcoholic or were smoking a pack a day.
  3.  Poor social connections are harder on your health than not exercising, or being obese.

The study concludes that medical checkups should screen patients for social well being, with the goal of enhancing social connections.

It goes almost without saying that medical checkups should also screen patients for hearing loss, to ensure that patients have a good shot at maintaining social well being.  We think and hope readers will  agree that hearing well is an essential ingredient for developing and maintaining successful social networks.

Quality of Life

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Article

 

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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