Solving the Problem: Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

June 24, 2013

Can you get the right answer if you ask the wrong question?

Common sense would dictate that asking how to get to the beach would seldom get you directions to the mountains.  Likewise, trying to solve the problem of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) by fixing how people choose and put in their hearing protection might be only part of the answer.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is still a concern.

Noisy workplaceNoise Induced Hearing Loss affects, by some reports, 1/3 of the persons in North America working in noise. If 1/3 of the people in New York City had the same malady, you can bet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would respond.  Likewise, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, the CDC’s workplace health and safety arm, has been on the case of NIHL for decades.  Regrettably, it is still a real problem.

In the last five years, several products have come on the market designed to measure the attenuation hearing protectors give to the people wearing them. These are  portable systems to measure the attenuation real people get in their work settings as opposed to measurements in a laboratory.  The granddaddy of these systems, FitCheck, has been around since 1994 and has been used extensively by companies like Alcoa to measure how effective their workers are at selecting and inserting effective hearing protection.  The problem these systems are trying to resolve is: How do we marry the right hearing protector with an individual and teach him or her to get the attenuation needed for it

Certainly this is a worthwhile goal provided once the protector is fit, it stays in their ears.  Aye, but there’s the rub.  Dr. Peter Rabinovitch has studied Alcoa’s hearing conservation program for many years. Dr. Rabinovitch says that “he can see no outcomes in Alcoa’s hearing conservation program attributable to the use of Fit Checking systems”.  That’s a lot of teaching and testing for no improvement in reducing NIHL.

Dr. Barry Bessler, in a speech to the National Hearing Conservation Association in 2007  tried to explain why rational, intelligent, normal people would turn up their digital music players loud enough to hurt their ears. Dr. Bessler’s answer was reasoned and complex.  One of the points he made is relevant to this conversation. He theorized that our sense of hearing is “hard wired” to our sense of safety.  Impair hearing and we don’t feel safe. In wanting to keep “in touch” with our environment, to feel safe, we need to be able to hear.  Therefore, if we are using hearing protection it must not block our ability to hear.  It must just make it safe to do so.  Given that most types of hearing protection substantially reduce our ability to hear our environment, will workers keep these protectors in their ears?  The evidence seems to indicate that they won’t.

This brings me back to my original point, in developing systems/machines to measure attenuation are we solving the problem of NIHL.  So what  we need to do is not worry about how much noise reduction a properly-worn hearing protector may provide if inserted in total compliance with the manufactuer’s instruction. What we need to worry about  is whether the protector is providing sufficient noise reduction for the noise in which the wearer works. Instead of using these systems/machines to teach, we should be using them to verify.


If Joe is  is carrying a noise burden of 92 dBA  and he needs only 17 dB of noise reduction to be safe  and can get a consistent 17 dB of noise reduction from an earplug with an NRR of 33 dB, GOOD! Joe doesn’t have to be taught how to get 33 dB of noise reduction. Or, in the case of a custom earplug, one should be made for Joe that givens him 17 dB of noise reduction.


I’m afraid I have my doubts that such a direction will be taken.  We need to be talking about making hearing protection as invisible to hearing as safety glasses are to vision. Instead, we have made them as cumbersome as full-face respirators.

In the interest of full disclosure Custom Protect Ear sells and supports the FitCheck and FitCheck Solo attenuation measurement systems. We do so understanding that they can be used as a tool to teach the effectiveness of hearing protection.  


ASSE Safety Show If you have something to add to this discussion, and you will be attending ASSE 2013 in Las Vegas this June, please come by and share it with me.
Custom Protect Ear is in booth # 551.

If you won’t be there, drop me a line to


Jeffrey Goldberg | President
Custom Protect Ear

Unusual Workplace Causes of Hearing Loss

September 13, 2012
CDC - Hearing Loss ProtectionIt is estimated that over 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work and according to the CDC, “Reported cases of hearing loss accounted for 14% of occupational illness in 2007.” When we think of workplace noise levels, the first places that come to mind are factories, construction, and mining where one expects that the area would be loud. But there are other, less common work situations where you also are at risk for hearing loss.

If you are in the military or work in law enforcement, you are exposed to sudden noises on a daily basis. Loud noises such as gunfire, explosions and loud engines or sirens can cause temporary and permanent hearing damage. Unfortunately, a sudden loud noise can cause hearing damage even after the first exposure, so it is important to protect your ears.

Even working in an office environment can be dangerous to your hearing. If construction is happening in the building, the construction workers are outfitted with hearing protection, surrounding offices may not realize the noise level can be causing damage and employees need to be protected.

Noise levels should be under 85 decibels(dbs) for eight hours to minimize risk for hearing loss. When you consider that an ordinary household blender or blow dryer easily hits 85 decibels, it puts into perspective how easy it is to exceed dangerous levels on any given day. If you work in an environment where there are constant loud levels (even a retail environment could be considered too loud) you should be supplied with ear protection.

Some examples of noise levels and industries where you may be exposed are as follows:  Loud Noises Unusual Workplace Hearing Loss

• Loud music – the music industry or certain retail environments and restaurants
• Power tools – construction, carpentry, and home improvement centers
• The noise from lawn mowers – gardeners and gardening centers
• Appliances – restaurants, the food industry, smoothie shops
• The noise from vehicles – mechanics and vehicle sales

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is preventable, but hearing loss is permanent and irreversible once the damage has occurred. Custom Protect Ear offers the most effective hearing protection on the planet for every type of situation. From industry specific hearing protection to ear protection for personal use, CPE has ear protection devices for everyone!

Determining Work Related Hearing Loss

July 9, 2012

There are many factors, both at work, at home, and at play that can contribute to noise induced hearing loss. How, then, can a doctor confirm that a person’s hearing loss is work related?

Peter M. Rabinowitz, MD MPH wrote a detailed article in the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation’s CAOCH Update in the fall of 2005 called Determining When Hearing Loss is Work Related that explains how doctors confirm or deny occupational hearing loss. Though the article is seven years old, the information is still valid today and should be interesting, if not required reading, for anyone who works in a noisy work environment and anyone who manages employees who are exposed to loud noises while at work.

Physician Must Determine if Hearing Loss is Work RelatedOnly A Physician Can Determine if Hearing Loss is Work Related

Rabinowitz explains, how only a physician can determine if a case of hearing loss is work related. The doctor will look at many factors before deciding if a person’s loss of hearing is deemed occupational including the patient’s:

• Most recent and previous hearing tests particularly showing audiometric patterns
• Otoscopy (ear exam) to rule out ear wax buildup, ear infections or lesions that could be causing hearing loss
• Overall medical history
• History of occupational noise
• History of non-occupational noise
• Use of hearing protection including type of hearing protection, fit, frequency of use, and Among the negative features of Sagittarian/ capricorn monthly horoscope there are being fragrant, rough, exaggerating, quick-tempered, impulsive, hot-headed, conceited, and aggressive. consistency of use
• Exposure to ototoxic chemicals such as organic chemicals or heavy metals that could damage hearing

It’s clear that more than one factor can contribute to hearing loss, which is often the case. However, if (in the words of OSHA) the doctor determines that “an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition or illness” then the loss of hearing is occupational.

What is the Cost of Occupational Hearing Loss to a Company?

One large U.S. company puts the cost at $19,000/occurrence. Almost $20,000 just to determine if it is work related or not.

Don’t let occupational hearing loss happen in your workplace. Learn more about Custom Protect Ear’s custom fit hearing protection and how it can reduce occupational and non-occupational noise that contributes to hearing loss. В A proactive hearing protection program with Custom Protect Ear can help save your company costly future expenses and help save your employee”s hearing. В It”s a Win Win!


Work Related Hearing Loss in the Manufacturing Industry

June 5, 2012

Manufacturing Industry Hearing LossWhen trying to protect their hearing, are you solving the wrong problem? According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noises each year. The CDC reports that in 2007, “82% of the cases involving occupational hearing loss were reported among workers in the manufacturing sector.” That’s 8 out of every 10 workers who are employed in the manufacturing industry. In fact, hearing loss is the most common form of work-related injury reported in the manufacturing sector according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It seems that what most are doing isn’t working.

Most work related hearing loss occurs gradually in the first ten years of employment in a manufacturing environment. That means that many new employees won’t even think about protecting their hearing until they are required to. Because the damage is done slowly over time, the worker will not notice a problem until methods of prevention are too late. Even when a manufacturing plant takes the necessary steps to engineer out the noise, hearing protection like Custom Protect Ear’s dB Blockers is still needed to prevent noise induced hearing loss. So, if companies are providing hearing protection, why do we still have the problem? Let’s start by looking at the noise sources.

Where’s the Noise Coming From?

What’s causing all the noise? In the manufacturing industry, nearly every procedure produces enough noise to cause hearing loss over time. For example, the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive bureau lists the following processes in the food and drink manufacturing industries as high noise emitters:

1. Glass bottling lines: 85-100dB(A)
2. Product impact on hoppers: 90-100dB(A)
3. Wrapping, cutting wrap, bagging etc.: 85-95dB(A)
4. Bowl choppers: > 90db(A)
5. Pneumatic noise and compressed air: 85-95dB(A)
6. Milling operations: 85-100dB(A)
7. Saws/cutting machinery: 85-107dB(A)
8. Blast chillers/freezers: 85-107dB(A)
9. Packaging machinery: 85-95dB(A)
10. Wheeled trolleys/racks: up to 107dB(A) (from wheel bearings)

So what’s not working?

The fly in the ointment is communication. From the dawn of mankind, our ears have been the primary source of safety for the human. That’s the reason we have no “ear lids”. We can never turn our hearing off. And it is a good thing too. Hearing detects in all the hazards, in all directions in three dimensional space, whether were awake or asleep. To protect our hearing by disabling it, flies in the face of this fact. So workers enable their hearing by disabling their protection. And it is not just the worker who suffers.

Everyone Loses with Hearing Loss

The toll of occupational hearing loss isn’t just felt by the workers. It’s also a financial burden on the manufacturer. Hearing loss is a valid form of workers compensation, and if an individual can prove that he or she suffers from occupational related hearing loss from long-time noise exposure in the workplace, the business will have to pay a costly settlement. How much? In the United States, an estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability. The bottom line: When an employee suffers occupational hearing loss, everyone loses. That does NOT include the value of the knowledge the worker with hearing loss possess that is less able to be accessed because communication is so difficult.

Prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Stop occupational noise induced hearing loss before it stops you. If you are an owner or manager of a manufacturing company, whether big or small, protect your best assets – your workers – by sound proofing your workplace and providing workplace hearing protection they can hear through to your employees. If you are an employee, educate yourself on the dangers of manufacturing noise and insist on personalized, dB Blocker hearing protection you can hear through to prevent further hearing damage.


How Loud is Too Loud? 
Warning Signs Your Workplace May be Too Noisy

March 28, 2012

Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss, and each year approximately 30 million people in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace.

Noise-related hearing loss has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns for more than 25 years. Thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. In 2009 alone, BLS reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases. Neither surgery nor a hearing aid can help correct this type of hearing loss. Learn more about Occupational Noise Exposure. 

Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears online casinos (tinnitus). These short term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area. However, exposure to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/ or hearing loss. The effects of hearing loss can be profound. Noise Induced hearing loss limits your ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and seriously impairs your ability to communicate. Learn more about the symptoms of  Noise Induce Hearing Loss (NIHL) 

What are the warning signs that your workplace may be too noisy? Noise may be a problem in your workplace if:

  • You hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work
  • You have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm”s length away
  • You experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.
noisy workplace