Connect PhoneBuddy™ to your dB Blockers.

November 18, 2011

Product Release

Surrey British Columbia, November 14th, 2011. Custom Protect Ear launches the The PhoneBuddy™, headphones that are compatible to dB Blockers and work with many Smartphones. The headphones, “The PhoneBuddy™” are available in two versions; the single and the dual.

PhoneBuddy™ I  is a single version headphone for Phone Buddy monaural use (phone calls and to just hear the phone ring in noise). The unit works with virtually any smart phone and has an inline microphone and flash button for answering the call and hanging up. 

“A BIG PLUS is you can connect your PhoneBuddy™ into your dB Blocker Convertible vented protector and hear the phone ring in noise. You still have to move to quieter places to have a conversation but you won’t miss the call, says Custom Protect Ear’s President, Jeffery Goldberg.

PhoneBuddy™ II

PhoneBuddy™ II is the stereo version. With PhoneBuddy™ II you can listen to music and answer your phone calls on most Smartphones. It also has an in-line microphone with a flash switch. When a call comes in, the phone will ring in the earpiece and the user simply switches online pokies to the phone by pressing the flash switch.  When the call concludes, the user presses the flash switch again and the music resumes playing.

What makes PhoneBuddy unique is the sound quality and the ability to use it with more than one Smartphone.  PhoneBuddy™ II also connects to dB Blocker Convertible vented protectors for use in a noisy work environment. PhoneBuddy™ I sells for $69.00 retail with discounts for commercial users. PhoneBuddy™ II sells for $125.00 retail also with discounts for commercial users.

Please contact us for more details.

Custom Protect Ear
681-7789 134th Street
Surrey, BC  V3W 9E9
Phone: 604-599-1311 x321
Toll-free: 1-800-520-0220 x321
Fax: 604-599-7377

Listen Up! Hearing Loss

November 13, 2011

Listen up about hearing loss

At a very young age many of us are trained to take care of our health and hygiene. From washing our hands before we touch food to brushing our teeth at least a couple of times a day – it all revolves around prevention.Snapback Hats Wholesale.Wholesale Snapback snapbacks online.Cheap Snapbacks.Cheap Snapbacks Free Shipping.Cheap Snapbacks Hats for sale.Wholesale Snapback.

We are taught to understand that if you don’t take care of yourself, you might experience negative symptoms like a cavity in your teeth, a congested nose or blurriness in the eyes. Everyday we read an article or hear about a deadly virus in the news, but many people are not aware of things that affect our health in a negative way until it is too late.

Hearing LossHearing protection - listen up

Hearing loss is an example of a  negative symptom caused in many people today. Especially since we are impacted by the digital economy we live in; we are prone to noise from the time our alarm clocks go off. Hearing problems often start slowly over time. and rarely lead to total deafness.

There are many causes of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be divided into two main categories:

Conductive hearing loss (CHL)
occurs because of a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear. The three tiny bones of the ear (ossicles) may not conduct sound properly. Or, the eardrum may not vibrate in response to sound. Fluid in the middle ear can cause this type of hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)is due to a problem with the inner ear. It most often occurs when the tiny hair cells (nerve endings) that move sound through the ear are injured, diseased, do not work correctly, or have died. Learn more about Hearing Protection.

It has also been determined that untreated, hearing loss can lead to depression, dissatisfaction with life, reduced functional and cognitive health, and withdrawal from social activities. What you need to know about hearing loss is that is irreversible.

Hearing Loss: Things to know

So how do you know if you have hearing loss? Quoted by the Canadian Foundation of Hearing.

Take the hearing loss quiz! Answer yes or no to the following:

> I often miss parts of conversations and continually ask people to repeat themselves.

> I find that the high and low tones of many sounds have disappeared. For example, I find it difficult to hear birds singing.

> My family or friends complain that I listen to the TV at too loud a volume.

> I have to turn up the volume on the telephone/cellphone to hear properly.

> I have difficulty distinguishing speech from background noises. For example, I often have difficulty following dinnertime conversation,  while others are talking and music is playing.

> I find myself straining to read lips and facial expressions just to understand what someone is saying to me.

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, then you need to have your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist. For a list of audiologists in your area, refer to your phone book or contact the Canadian Academy of Audiology  or in the United States click here. In many cases, testing your hearing is a free service audiologists often offer.

Remember hearing loss prevention is one of the many things you can avoid if you know what to avoid and what to look for. So listen up and be aware of sounds and noises that can cause damage over time to your hearing.

LEARN MORE, read “How loud is noisy”

When things collide sometimes you should pay attention.

October 3, 2011

How harmful are headphones?

2 separate thoughts occurred to me recently. I’d like to share them with you.

The first is that more and more I see people wearing headphones rather than earphones. While earphones imply “leave Wearing headphones, hear protection me alone I’m busy” headphones really convey the message that “I am otherwise engaged”. Really they look like ear muffs used as hearing protection. What could be more clear than someone wearing hearing protection that tells you they’d rather not talk to you.

The other information comes from a study done for the U.S. Military by Dr. John Casali at Virginia Tech and Etymotic Research. In that study, which looked a spatial acuity of people wearing hearing protection it was discovered that covering the pinnae of the ear greatly reduces the wearers ability to determine where sounds were coming from. In fact the front to rear determination was particularly poor. This study was done using ear muffs not headphones in that no sound was coming from inside the ear cups. Read Study.

Headphones by design

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What has one to do with the other? Headphones, by design, cover the pinnae of the ear. Headphone wearers are therefore significantly impaired when it comes to determining where sounds outside their headphones are coming from. Walking down the street with you music playing inside your headphones you are unable to determine where a car horn or person warning you of danger is coming from.

How long will it be before someone is injured wearing their headphones?

Should We Legislate Music Players?

August 24, 2011

Recently, Open Medicine, an online medical journal, ran an opinion piece by Dr. Kapil Khatter recommending the Canadian government regulate the volume digital music players could output to 85 dB.. While Dr. Khatter’s recognition of the problem is commendable, his suggested solutions are probably unworkable and don’t really address the problem.

Dr. Brian Fligor’s research into the effects of personal digital music players has shown that it is not just volume that causes the damage; it is also the exposure time. Dr. Khatter suggests limiting the exposure to 85 dB which physiologically still leaves 25% of the population open to hearing damage. To be 100% safe, 80 – 82 dB should be the target.

Dr. Khatter further makes the point that “ear bud headphones may produce sound that is up to 10 dB louder than standard headphones. Firstly, there is no acoustic principle at work that would allow ear buds to be louder than headphones. The loudness would be a function of the dynamic design of the listening instrument itself whether ear buds or headphones. I believe what Dr. Khatter is referring to might be the need of the ear bud user to drown out background noise that might be otherwise blocked by a headphone cup that covers the ear.Wholesale Snapbacks
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All of these issues aside, the idea that legislation can solve this problem is fatuous. If Canada legislates a sound level for digital music players, buyers would order them from the U.S. or buy them there. Currently, the IPod has a feature that limits the output to 85 dB, which users can turn on or off. No, Dr. Khatter, what is needed is research, education, and a culture modification.

On the research front, what we need to understand is why people turn their players up so loud. Dr. Barry Blesser has some great thoughts on why that happens which we will share in a future blog. Dr. Brain Fligor is also researching the subject. We need to understand why so we can figure out how to change this behavior.

Once we understand why people will knowingly damage their hearing (they don’t knowing damage their sight or sense of taste or smell) we can educate them as to options. Dr. John Franks, a member of the Custom Protect Ear Scientific Advisory team, is currently doing some research into how to create conditions that would allow listeners to turn down the volume. Through research and education, in concert with government, we can get the knowledge of hearing damage from music players into users hands.

With all of this, perhaps we can create a culture similar to that in Europe, where listening at a safe level is much better understood. A recent presentation to the annual National Hearing Conservation Association annual conference showed use of hearing protection by club and concert goers in Europe to be 4x that of North Americans. We need to understand why.

You may be wondering what I’m taking such a hard stance. Dr. Khatter’s article is obviously well intentioned and trying to achieve the same goals as we are at CPE  – the prevention of hearing loss. Our concern is that if we try to solve the problem with legislation and think our job is done we will not achieve the desired aim. In fact we might achieve exactly the opposite outcome. By making digital music players function in a manner that is incompatible with what the users in Canada think they want them to do, we merely reinforce how ill informed and ineffective government is without solving the problem. We need to get users to reduce their exposure (volume over time) willingly. That means understanding the motivations and educating to change outcomes.

Safety Engineers driving towards a safer workplace

July 3, 2011

Recently we attended ASSE 2011 in Chicago (I love that town).  This is the annual conclave of the American Society of Safety Engineers. There is a conference with classes on various aspect of safety engineering as well as a trade show with vendors offering various safety products designed to make workplaces less threatening.  We were presenting our dB Blocker hearing protection solution (hearing protection that stays in your ears because you can hear through it)  and it was interesting to hear what was being said to us.Wholesale Snapback

Let me start by confirming that the best way to protect someone’s hearing is to not expose them to noise.  Even persons with relatively quiet jobs can loose some hearing from medical or genetic causes but an absence of noise sure helps.  Once we recognize that not every workplace is quiet we have to figure out how to protect those exposed. It is a fallacy that exposure to only the level of noise exposure acceptable to regulators we keep you safe. Cheap Snapbacks Hats for sale. Based on physiology, exposure to noises over 80 decibels will cause hearing loss in some individuals. At 85 dB, the action level in most Canadian provinces, 25% of the people exposed could loose some hearing.  The US action level for hearing protection is 90 dB (at 85 dB companies are supposed to start a hearing conservation program monitoring their employees hearing).  Well Safety Engineers know all of this and still are searching for solutions to protect the hearing of their associates.Cheap Snapbacks Free Shipping.

Here are what some of them re telling us.

“I’ve been given an open cheque to stop hearing loss but economically sound solutions are hard to come by”

“My boss wants us to maintain the safest workplace.  I have his support to do what I need to do to protect hearing”.

“We have an aging work force and need to find a way to change habits and protect them”

” Every time our president visits one of our sites, the first question he asks is what safety topic did you discuss today.  The second question is what did you discuss yesterday”

I’m writing about this because it is wonderful to hear the enthusiasm for ensuring associates are well protected at work,  It is an enlightened perspective one that shows how far companies have come. If that’s not the philosophy at your company, maybe it’s time you thought about changing jobs. Companies that operate safe workplaces will survive and thrive.  Others will be eclipsed and be taken over by those companies powered by associates who reciprocate the care the company offers them. Ensure your with a company that’s on the safety-wellness band wagon.Cheap Snapbacks.

Go Canucks Go….sensibly

June 18, 2011

I”m upset (actually I”m pissed but that”s not appropriate language for this blog).  Firstly, I”m a die-hard Vancouver Canucks fan. I”ve been on this bandwagon for years and when we were finally in the finals coming down to the final game in the Stanley Cup I was overjoyed.  As you read this the cup has been decided.  Believe it not, this rant is not about whether the Canucks won or lost that”s gotten my knickers in a twist.  It is the decibel meters shown at games inciting fans to cheer louder and louder.  The problem with this behaviour is that at the decibel level they show on these meters, over 100 decibels, fans will start to loose their hearing in as little 15 minutes.  15 minutes of a 2 1.2 hour hockey game.  Firstly, I know what 100 dB sounds like and I”m dubious that those levels shown on the meters are actually being reached.  That aside, I don”t think it is responsible for a sport teams to insight their fans to go deaf.  There was a study done by Bill Hodgetts from the University of Alberta in Edmonton documenting noise levels measured in Rexall Arena. Mr. Hodgetts measured levels over 120 dB and averaged 104 dB during a playoff game; considered toxic noise in a workplace.  Exposure at these levels would results in a online casino person reaching their daily noise dose in about 7 minutes.


I must sound like the curmudgeon of the decade suggesting folks don”t cheer for the home team.  In fact, I think they should passionately, reverently, and unreservedly cheer for the home team.  What I think sports franchises making their living from their fans have a duty not to expose their fans to danger.  If a handrail came loose would they not fix it?  If the lights in a stairwell burnt out would they not replace the bulbs to light the way so patrons don”t fall?  This is the same thing.  They not only willing and knowingly expose fans to toxic noise (and by the way their players) they encourage the behavior.  All of us have seen parents who take their children to these games. Most of the younger ones, under 10, are wearing some form of hearing protection because their parents know how loud it is. Most but not snapbacks online.


What would I like teams to do? Snapback Hats Wholesale. Encourage the fans to yell and scream in support of the team BUT also remind them to wear protection from the noise.  Don”t show decibel meters ensiling fans, real fans, to break the sound barrier.  Be responsible about what dangers you expose your fans to. In South Africa the sounds made by the Vuvuzelas was documented at over 120 dB.  At those levels everyone in that stadium suffered some hearing loss. Whether or not it proved to be temporary we will never know but we do know they are deafer for attending those matches.  Until I became part of the hearing protection industry I never understood how serious this is. I hope, in some small way, I can motivate some of you to take precautions.  I really hope I can.Wholesale Snapback Hats


Hearing Conservation Programs – a little known secret to success

May 31, 2011

In 2004 at a large U.S forest products company, something unusual happened.  Before I tell you what that was, let me give you some background.  Most large corporations manage their many operations at a distance. By that I mean the company sets out guidelines its operations are supposed to follow and then leaves their very capable managers to operate their divisions in line with the expected financial and operational outcomes set out in those guidelines.  These guidelines normally require the divisions to adhere to all of the current municipal, state, and federal regulations governing their operations and to achieve or exceed operational budgets for sales and profits.  The “head office” doesn’t tell these very capable managers how to do that. It is presumed, because of their position, that they know.  So much for background.  Now the story.

What was different at this company, in 2004, was that they had just completed an acquisition of a competitor whose corporate style was more centralized. As they integrated their people, several of the new personnel took significant jobs within the company. Used to making changes to things that weren’t right, these people started looking at the hearing conservation program and determined that they didn’t have enough information to make an accurate assessment.  Why not? Well, the company was using 3 different hearing testing companies who results we not comparable. If you cannot determine the year over year change in hearing loss, you don’t have an important measure for the efficacy of your program.  And so began the rebuilding of their hearing conservation program management process.

This corporation  had been a customer of CPE for sometime and while we enjoyed the business we did with them, we were only a part of each plant we served.  We couldn’t get those managing the HCP (hearing conservation program) to make any one type of protection the standard in the plant.  Such was the decentralized management paradigm.  As the corporation moved towards a new hearing conservation program model, some things began to change.  A single hearing test provider was chosen for the whole corporation.  dB Blockers we suggested an accepted as the hearing protection of choice.  Those choosing not to wear them had to wear double protection. Slowly but steadily changes was taking place.

What was the upshot and what is the little known secret to hearing conservation program success?  As these changes took place everyone in the plants, from the General Manager to the Shipper/Receiver knew that there was a new program and new hearing protection.  Because of this full commitment of everyone in management, the work force espoused the change.  Everyone was talking about it and everyone was engaged.  As we circled back to the various plants, no matter who we spoke with, all of them knew what the program was and gave it a passing level of importance.

The key to success in a hearing conservation program?  The little known secret? Leadership by example.  This company with 9,000 employees is over 90 plants around the U.S. virtually eliminated NIHL from their plants in 4 years.  They achieved it because everyone, from the Executive Vice President on down knew and supported the program.  If you want to eliminate noise induce hearing loss for your work place, follow this example.  If we can help you with details, please contact us.


What’s wrong with NRR (part 2)? Choose A or B

May 9, 2011

With the development of a second method for determining realistic hearing protection “protectiveness”, hearing conservationists now had a method for predicting more closely what would really happen when they supplied hearing protection and training to their work forces. The problem was a lack of support for this standard from industry. ANSI standards are just that – standards. They have no force in law or no effect unless some governing body, empowered to enforce, adopts them into law. So too with ANSI S12.6-1997 (R2008) for Hearing Protection. The only enforcement body using ANSI S12.6-1997 (R2008) is the EPA, the federal agency that has jurisdiction over the laws that invoke ANSI and other standards for labeling hearing protectors for sales in the United States. For Method “B” to gain traction, the EPA would have to mandate its inclusion in the labeling of hearing protectors. Only then would manufacturers be forced to test their protectors under Method “B” and publish/label their results.

Sadly, despite powerful evidence in support of Method B as the most credible, accurate, standardized test method, the EPA chose NOT to endorse this new standard after its promulgation as a standard in 1997. This despite a foundation of bonafide, multi-laboratory, research that supported the validity of Method B over Method A. One reason might be that since the labeling Rule had been in place for years, the EPA was satisfied with its labeling rule for hearing protection and wasn’t ready to revisit it so quickly. There was also a lot of push back from manufacturers. It has been reported that their concerns were the variability in results obtained doing Method “B” tests. (This fact is very telling because hearing conservationists know the variability in using disposable hearing protection). That is part of its problem. Employees need to be carefully trained to use earplugs and muffs or their results are variable and below par compared to the prevailing Standard’s (ANSI S3.19-1974) results. As a result, after S12.6 became an approved ANSI standard, testing protectors under its Method “B” was totally optional and only a few companies actually spent the money to do Method “B” tests. (They are sometimes twice the cost of Method “A” as the panel is double the size).

As if the situation for Method “B” wasn’t bad enough, it is now about to get worse. The EPA is currently finalizing its new hearing protection labeling requirements in light of revisions to ANSI S12.6-1997 (R2008). While this standard maintains Method “B” intact, it offers a revised Method “A” test and reports attenuation with 2 new numbers; NRR20 and NRR80. These numbers describe what 80% of the population can expect to achieve and what 20% of the population can expect to exceed. The EPA has indicated that it is favorably disposed to implementing the 2 number change in its labeling rule. But what should be the basis for calculating these 2 new numbers? And how will a hearing conservationist use these 2 numbers to determine what is safe for any one particular individual? That is still unclear. The EPA’s position has always been to measure “potential” protection not the real world effect. Curiously the EPA had put forward three reasons why they wanted to change the labeling rule. One was repeatability. The EPA’s wording on that subject was

the selected method should provide a reliable and repeatable means for assessing product performance, with minimal influence and impact of non-product outside factors.”

A recent study, conducted by NIOSH over 6 laboratories, comparing Method A and Method B attenuation testing results, showed that Method “B” test results varied less from laboratory to laboratory than did Method A results. In the same Inter-lab study no significant difference in calculating NRR20 resulted from using Method “A” or Method “B” numbers from laboratory to laboratory. Therefore by this measure either Method would be acceptable to capture attenuation data for calculating NRR20.

The EPA’s second concern was that based on the results of the Inter-lab study mentioned above was

significant differences in technique between the 6 testing labs were evident in Method “A” data. However such differences appeared to be masked by large variability between test subjects based on Method “B” data.”

But Method B did not exhibit as high inter-lab variability as Method A did, nor was its between subject variability so high as to cause any differences between using Method A or Method B to collect data for NRR20. What this means simply is that Method B appears to be more repeatable when different labs do the testing because it eliminates the “experimenter influence”.

And finally, the EPA was concerned that

“the true potential effectiveness (NRR) of the HPD, when correctly used, as instructed by the manufacturer, could be understated because of low attenuation measurements that resulted from improper fit by inexperienced subjects; this is particularly important with ear insert HPDs” (earplugs).

So if the EPA’s concern were indeed the case, then the NRR20 values (for at least the earplugs) in the Inter-lab sample would have been lower under Method B than Method A. But they were not. Furthermore, data from field studies show slightly lower attenuation than the lab data using Method B. The real concern is the bias the experimenter supervised fit method, Method A, has when you look at the differences between labs. Method A, with its heavy involvement of the experimenter in supervision, training, and visual determination of fit prior to attenuation testing, is more influenced by the individual lab than Method B, which precludes experimenter involvement.

We made this case to the EPA’s hearings on this matter in January 2010. Nevertheless it appears the EPA has rejected our (John Franks Ph.D., Consultant NIOSH (Ret), John Casali Ph.D., Virginia Tech’s Auditory Systems Lab, Jeffrey M. Goldberg, Custom Protect Ear, Inc., and the National Hearing Conservation Association) pleas for Method B as the basis for labeling. The EPA says it will propose the rule in its final form in May 2011.

By now, if you are still reading this, you are wondering why I’m blogging about such a dry and technical subject. Our mission at CPE is to reduce or eliminate Noise Induced Hearing Loss for our clients. Only by having data that hearing conservationists can use do we have a hope of achieving that end. Our concern is that we are just about to take a giant step backwards.

How do you find out what hearing protection you have? Are FAEMS the answer?

May 2, 2011

From my previous blog (imagine my hubris thinking you read everything I write), you’ll remember that in 1994 Elliott Berger M.Sc., John Franks Ph.D. and Fredrik Lindgren Ph.D. showed us that real world attenuation is not the same as the rating a hearing protector gets in a laboratory. In fact, on average, real-world attenuation is significantly lower. In the search for best practices for hearing conservation programs, hearing conservationists were troubled by this fact. The unpredictable protectiveness (attenuation) from some forms of hearing protection needed to be quantified for them to know exactly what they were giving a particular associate. By some forms I’m referring to the “one size fits most” disposable protection that predominates the industry as well as the custom fit protectors. At this point, it is only fair that I point out that Custom Protect Ear’s position is that a significant cause of this condition (the variability of hearing protectors attenuation) is the variability of the ear and canal itself. Contributing to the problem of protective variability, of course, is the manner in which hearing protection is used. Just as a car won’t run well if the lug nuts on the wheels are tight, hearing protection must be correctly inserted if it is to have a chance of working properly. Some manufacturers think it is a training issue – train people better at inserting their hearing protection and it will work for them.

In this regard, several systems to aid in this training have been developed.  These systems are currently being standardized in a new ANSI standard S12.71 now in development. At present their are 7 different systems all which report their results slightly differently.  These systems need a common basis for comparing their results and the user needs to know how reliable their particular system is for them to use it effectively. These systems are called Field Attenuation Estimating Systems (FAES).  Their purpose is to measure attenuation that a particular wearer gets after they have fit their protector. Then from training and practise they see if they can improve the attenuation thereby learning how best to wear their hearing protection.  One the face of it this all sounds great.

At present there are seven different systems available.  I’ll address 4 of them here because they are the most prevalent and are in the market today.

  • 1. Fit Check – the grandaddy of these systems having been around since 1992, Fit Check replicates the Real Ear At Threshold (REAT) process used as the “Gold Standard” for hearing protection attenuation measurement. Instead of an anechoic chamber, Fit Check uses headphones, a control box, patient switch (for signalling) and a Laptop computer.  It measures hearing with open ears and then again with occlude ears (with the earplug installed) and calculates an NRRsf (a personal attenuation rating) for that person and that protector.  Fit Check takes about 2 minutes to learn and about 10 minutes to test and costs about $2,500 including a netback to run it on.
  • 2. Ear Fit (Ear Fit is a trademark of the 3M company) – recently developed from the Sonomax Sonopass system, Ear Fit measures the insertion loss of a hearing protector installed in an ear by calculating the difference in sound pressure between an external microphones and an internal microphone in the earplug.  To do this, Ear Fit uses “surrogate” earplugs with holes in them to simulate the earplug the user normal wears.  The system computes this insertion loss and then adjusts the result for both using a surrogate and converting the result to an equivalent REAT measurement.  At 5 minutes, Ear Fit is faster than most other systems and has the advantage that the wearer does nothing but provide their ears and insert the plug as they would normally do.  There is no signalling when sounds are heard by the person being tested. The thinking is that through repeating the insertion process and measuring the results, the wearer learns how best to achieve the needed attenuation. It also allows wearers to choose plugs that best suit their ears eliminating those that just don’t work for their ear shape.  Ear Fit costs about $3,200 + a laptop and only works with 3M hearing protectors which cost $1.67/pair for the surrogate protectors.
  • 3. Veri-PRO (Veri-PRO is a trademark of  Sperian/Howard Leight LLP) – Similar to the Fit Check system in that it uses a laptop and a headset, Vari-Pro is a loudness balancing system.  The testing protocol is the person being tested puts the headphones on their ear and then moves a slider, via the touchpad until the sound they hear is the same in both ears.  Then they put one earplug into their right ear and repeat the process balancing the sound until it is equal in both ears. Finally they insert the other earplug and repeat the process.  From these actions the system calculates a result comparable to an REAT measurement.  Veri-PRO can test any earplug that will fit under their headphones. Pricing for Veri-PRO runs $2,875 and includes the computer to run it on. Veri-PRO is only available through Sperian/Howard Leight distributors.
  • 4. Well Fit – Well Fit is a trademark of NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health).  Well Fit works similar to  Fit Check and Veri-PRO in that it uses a Laptop computer and a pair of headphones.  Well Fit is faster than Fit Check but works similar in that the person being tested indicates that the hear the sound but tapping on the touch pad of the computer. Testing using Well-Fit tkes less than 5 minutes and learning the system less than 2 minutes. Well Fit is currently being commercialized and NIOSH is working on arrangements to bring this system to market in the next 9 months.  Current pricing for Well Fit system including the computer to run it, sound cased, headphones & software is $2,500.

You’ll note that all of these systems test only earplugs.  At this writing, there is not a proven FAES for testing ear muffs.

There are two other systems worth mentioning.

5. Safety Meter by Phonak, the hearing aid giant, has a system which at this time only works with Phonak hearing protectors.  That system works very much like the Ear-Fit system in that the wearer does not have to signal in any way.  Testing takes 5 minutes and learning how to test 2 minutes. The system performs a MIRE measurement and reports the results with reference to REAT calculation techniques.  Safety Meter costs $2,500 excluding the computer.

6. Quiet Dose by Sperian/Howard Leight is a different take on this problem.  Quiet Dose does not measure attenuation; it measures the actual noise dose at the ear drum under the protectors.  Quiet Dose is a personal dosimeter that associates wear all day. It records their daily noise dose for that work period.  There is currently some research being done by Dr. Peter Rabinowitz at Alcoa sites on the efficacy of Quiet Dose.  We’ll report on it when the study is made public. (By the way of full disclosure Custom Protect Ear made the ear pieces for the study Dr. Rabinowitz is conducting).

It seems that if you can test the attenuation of an earplug, and know that by testing it offers sufficient protection from a particular noise level, this will truly revolutionize hearing conservation programs.  Right?

It seems all is not exactly that rosy.  Alcoa has been using the Fit Check  FAES system for fit testing and training in its facilities for 15 years. In fact, Fit Check, the first FAES, was developed because Alcoa was leading a charge to improve its hearing conservation programs. So if we are going to measure the efficacy of Fit Testing, Alcoa is where we should look.  Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a medical researcher with The Yale School of Medicine has studied Alcoa’s hearing conservation program extensively and published peer reviewed papers on his research.  In Dr. Rabinowitz’s opinion “I am not aware of clear evidence of the effectiveness of fit testing in terms of improved hearing conservation outcomes“.  Why?

Well one possibility is that what Fit Testing tells us is what the attenuation is for that person, using that earplug, at that moment. What is not yet proven is that over time, Fit Testing will result in changes to hearing conservation program outcomes. From his experience, Dr. Rabinowitz would certainly be among the world’s most experienced Fit Testing exponents.  Also there has been no research published as to what the longer term effect of this new protocol will be. Does teaching someone how to properly fit a protector, for maximum attenuation make a difference?  Why wouldn’t it?

Consider a situation wherein a trained associate comes to work and properly fits their earplugs. They then walk into noise and encounter another associate with whom they need to speak. What do they do?  Since most earplugs, properly fit do exactly that, plug your ears, the speaker removes an earplug so they can make certain they are speaking loud enough to be heard over the noise (Elliot Berger taught me that in my first hearing conservation for beginners program at an NHCA Conference). The listener than removes and earplug to respond. If the noise level is just 95 dBA, and this happens for just 15 minutes a day, in those 15 minutes this associate has achieved 25% of their daily noise dose (using an action level of 85 dBA and a 3 dB exchange rate – if you would like this explained, respond to the blog and I’ll send you some info). Since the target for most associates is 50 – 60% of their daily noise dose at work per day, this associate should now work for 6 hours and then leave work.  Part of the problem is then that earplugs, properly fit, tend to make the wearer functionally deaf. Communication frustrates protection.

Will FAES make a difference in hearing conservation program outcomes? I certainly hope so but I’m afraid much needs to be learned about the effect of these systems before we can announce to the world we have a way to beat Noise Induced Hearing Loss with FAES. So far, we need proof.


Why Do We Care For Our Hearing and Sight So Differently?

April 24, 2011

Recently, I had the rare pleasure to hear Dr. Barry Blesser (Blesser Associates address the National Hearing Conservation Association conference in Mesa AZ.  Dr. Blesser was discovering for us why people, normally thoughtful, intelligent, and competent, play music on their digital audio systems loud enough to do their hearing damage.  While I was fascinated by his reasoning, I”m going to borrow from his talk to delve into the consideration of hearing and sight as senses. Before I do, you might be asking why – why discuss the issue? Fact is, many people will protect their sight but do not protect their hearing the same way. I”m curious as to why?Womens Jordan Shoes.

To understand value of hearing to us we need  to look at hearing in an evolutionary perspective. What value did hearing have to us, compared to other senses, in “the beginning”.  Dr. Blesser asks it this way.
Let’s start with a speculative question: what is the purpose of hearing from an evolutionary perspective?  Human beings have an auditory system that is an extension of that which is found in many mammalian species.  Allocating scarce neural resources for the auditory cortex did not originate for speech and music, which is a late addition and expansion of an existing system.

Why then did we evolve our auditory cortex. Originally, all of our senses were focused on preservation.  Sight, Sound, Smell, and to some extent Touch evolved in order to find food and avoid danger.  As Dr. Blesser puts it
Two of the most important senses, vision and hearing, are dramatically different in one key aspect: vision is optimally suited for the perception of objects and geometries that are static;  hearing is optimally suited for the perception of dynamic events because they produce sound.Jordan 4 Retro.

Hearing also gave us a warning system unbounded by line of sight.  It was therefore much better protection from harm than sight because danger could be perceived from any direction, regardless of obstacle between us and the danger.  Once we pokies online “heard” the danger we could focus our eyes in its direction in order to determine a specific preservation action.  Sound radiates in all directions, through narrow openings. It is hard to block and segregate into units. Sound goes where it wants to go.  It reveals the interior state of an object, as in a hollow box or a angry dog
Sound events or time ordered and sequenced. One activity follows another. Sound quickly disappears. It flows in time. There is rarely a static sound.  Multiple sound sources overlap without necessarily obscuring each other. You cannot see behind an object but sound is not equivalently blocked.  Sound never respects ownership boundaries.
Because of its primal importance to self preservation, hearing is hard wired into our cerebral cortex.  We have no “ear lids” to close.  We cannot stop listening as simply as we can stop looking. As a result, hearing is a or the primary sense.Jordan Retro 7.

Quoting Dr. Blesser
The origin of hearing predates visual culture, and long before there was reading. Sensory Anthropology (Howes, David, ed. 1991 The Varieties of Sensory Experience) makes the point that the senses have a limited biological meaning compared to the way in which people choose to use them. “Use it or loose it”.
We could therefore conclude that there Cultural norms at play as well.  We don”t need perfect hearing to e-mail and text (and occasionally listen to music).  Dr. Blesser has an answer for why people might appear cavalier in their need to protect their hearing which I”ll try to convey in a future blog.  When we remove hearing, even incrementally, we alter the individuals sense of self, their relationship with their environment, and those around them.

This brings me back to the premise of the blog, we not equally protect hearing & sight; why?    In music, the importance of hearing and sight present a bit of a quandary. Take as an example Stevland Hardaway Morris (Stevie Wonder), Andrea Bocelli, Ray Charles and many more blind musicians and compare them to deaf musicians like Beethoven, Paul Stanley of KISS, Pete Townsend, and Johnny Ray – all of whom started as hearing and lost it later in life.  So far we have somewhat explored the problem. I”d be interested in your thoughts as to why you think this duality exists between hearing protection and vision protection. The conundrum continues.  In a future blog, I”ll tell you what Dr. Blesser says might be the cause for this cavalier attitude towards hearing conservation.  Stay tuned.