How to defend against noise-induced hearing loss

September 30, 2019

About a quarter of Canada’s Albertans have some degree of hearing loss, according to Deaf and Hearing Alberta, with exposure to excessive noise as the number one factor.

“Alberta is such a hard-working industrial province,” says Kari Weisgerber, director and CEO of the Hear In Edmonton hearing clinics. “People who work in the trades are really susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss.”

But damaging your hearing with noise is not limited to tradespeople. Anyone who goes to loud concerts, noisy restaurants or uses headphones is also at risk.

Prevention is a powerful tool in all areas of medicine, but according to Kari it’s particularly important when it comes to noise-induced hearing loss, which occurs when loud sounds cause wear and tear on the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that transmit sound to the brain.

Industrial worker

 

Here are a few of Kari’s suggestions tips for protecting your hearing.

1. Know that damage can occur in almost no time flat

Many people, Kari says, feel that loud noises won’t damage their hearing if they limit exposure. “Someone might use a loud lawnmower without earplugs on the basis that the job will only take a few minutes. But loud noises can permanently hurt your hearing in almost no time,” she says.

For instance, you can spend about 15 minutes in noise of 100 decibels before incurring permanent hearing damage. But that safe window gets cut in half for every three-decibel increase. By the time you crank the volume to 140 decibels—the volume of many live concerts—the safe exposure window is about half a second.

2. Recognize signs of damage early, hearing loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative over a person’s life, says Kari. Damage incurred in one’s teens or 20s can get worse as people age. That’s why it’s important to take precautions early in life and to monitor closely for damage.

Ringing in the ears is a clear sign of hearing damage, while noises sounding loud but not clear is another.

For those who work in loud environments, including most tradespeople, Kari advises annual hearing tests.

3. Use hearing protection and consider custom-made earplugs to prevent hearing loss.

Most people who are regularly exposed to loud noises use earplugs. Something is better than nothing, but Kari cautions that lots of off-the-shelf hearing protection can be hard to use properly. The ubiquitous neon foam plugs, for instance, need to be deeply embedded in the ear to do their job. If the plug is visible sticking out of your ear, it’s not in deep enough.

If you’d like to avoid the uncertainty and inconvenience of using off-the-shelf hearing protection, consider having a pair of custom earplugs made. A pair runs around $160 and can provide top-notch hearing protection for years.

That might seem costly, but it’s much less than years of hearing aides—not to mention it preserves your ability to connect with loved ones, enjoy music, stay safe in traffic, and much else besides, says Kari.

Plus the fitting appointments are quick and painless, and providers like the Hear In Edmonton clinics offer guaranteed fit. Kari and her team will have your plugs re-made for free if they don’t fit perfectly.

Some custom plugs are even modular, so you can pop in different noise-blocking mechanisms depending on what you’re doing. Kari has customers who love live music and use different “screens” in their plugs depending on the concert venue they’re attending. Learn More about Custom Hearing products.

4. If you use earbud headphones, beware of volume creep causing hearing loss

Mass-produced earbud headphones don’t provide enough noise protection, says Kari. The improper seal between bud and eardrum means outside sounds leak in unless you’re using the earbuds in perfect silence. The tempting solution to this is just to bump up the volume to make sure the music comes through. This is a very easy way to damage your hearing, says Kari.

There are two solutions. The first is to make peace with an imperfect listening experience while using your buds and keep the volume low, even in an area with loud ambient noise.

The second is to have custom earbuds made for your ears. They block outside noise much better, so they also make music sound better. Plus they’re modular, so you can use them with any number of sets of headphones.

To Learn More about hearing loss prevention and protection check out our resource section. 


SOURCE: https://edmontonjournal.com/sponsored/health-sponsored/how-to-defend-against-noise-induced-hearing-loss

Hearing loss on the rise among Canadian oil and gas workers: study

August 16, 2019

Richmond, British Columbia — More Canadian oil and gas workers in the drilling sector are showing signs of job-related hearing loss, according to a recent study from WorkSafeBC.

oil-gas-pipework.jpg

Researchers looked at hearing test data collected by oil and gas employers from 2012 to 2017. They found that, despite an increase in workers reporting they wear hearing protection (to 98 percent from 94 percent), the percentage of workers with noise-induced hearing loss grew to 45 from 33.

Of the 294 workers affected, 66 percent were younger than 35.

“There are a number of reasons why workers may be diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss even though they are wearing some form of hearing protection,” Sasha Brown, an occupational audiologist at WorkSafeBC, said in an Aug. 22 press release. “The earplugs or earmuffs might be the wrong size, inserted or worn incorrectly, not worn for long enough, or they may not be providing enough protection for the duration and intensity of noise exposure.”

heairing loss oil and gas

Why choose Custom Hearing Protection

Custom Hearing Protection – means a customized hearing solution that fits the individuals ear exactly leaving little to no room for noise to get in. Just like one size fits all work boots are probably not the best choice, neither is one size fits all hearing protection. Every human ear is unique in size, shape, and depth. Therefore it makes sense that for hearing protection to be the most effective, as well as the most comfortable, it must be custom fit.  Due to the increase of hearing loss claims, more and more employers are choosing custom hearing protection over disposable ear plugs. Read More for a case study. 

WorkSafeBC offers the following recommendations to employers:

  • Ensure all at-risk workers wear sufficient hearing protection that fits, and that they understand how to properly wear it.
  • Make sure workers insert or wear the correct hearing protection before entering a noisy environment, and wear it until they exit that location.
  • Rotate workers to different positions to minimize their time in noisy environments.
  • Identify potential engineering controls to mitigate risk of exposure.
  • Ensure workers have their hearing tested and are aware of the results.

To assist employers and workers, WorkSafeBC has published a safety bulletin featuring an infographic on earplug insertion and online resources.

Each year, 22 million U.S. workers face exposure to potentially damaging occupational noise, and employers spend an estimated $242 million on hearing loss disability, according to OSHA. The agency’s requirements for hearing protection are outlined in 29 CFR 1910.95.


SOURCE
https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/17549-hearing-loss-on-the-rise-among-canadian-oil-and-gas-workers-study

Workers Safety Series | Protect Yourself from Harmful Worksite Noise

March 19, 2018

Why is job site noise control important?

According to OSHA, exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Neither surgery nor a hearing aid can help correct this type of hearing loss.

For example, construction sites have many noisy operations and can be a significant source of noise exposure. Loud noise can also reduce worker productivity and contribute to workplace accidents by making it difficult to hear warning signals. Hearing loss from loud noise limits your ability to hear high frequencies, understand speech, and reduces your ability to communicate, which can lead to social isolation.

Hearing loss can affect your quality of life by interfering with your ability to enjoy socializing with friends, playing with your children or grandchildren, or participating in other activities. Damage to your hearing can be prevented, but once permanent noise-induced hearing loss occurs, it cannot be cured or reversed.

Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, so you may not realize it is happening until it is too late. Noise can also affect your body in other ways. A recent study found that workers persistently exposed to excessive occupational noise may be two-to-three times more likely to suffer from serious heart disease than workers who were not exposed.

Construction Workers

Photo by Yuri Kim

 You may have hearing loss if:

  • You have a hard time hearing people in groups or meetings or if there is background noise.
  • People sound as if they are mumbling.
  • You have to ask people to repeat what they say.
  • You have trouble understanding others on the telephone.
  • You have ringing or noises in one or both ears.
  • You have trouble hearing back-up alarms or the ringing of a cell phone

So, the bad news is – Hearing Loss; The good news is – there is a smart hearing loss protection option available to protect you from experiencing hearing loss. And no, it’s not your grandpa’s hearing protection, it’s a light easy to wear solution, called dB Blockers.

Remember those big clunky earmuffs you used to HAVE to wear while working in a noisy workplace; you know the ones that kept falling off your head because it just didn’t fit? Well if you do, that is not happening anymore. In today’s industrial world, Personal Protective Equipment has gone through some changes.

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE DB BLOCKER ADVANTAGE?

db Blockers

dB Blockers™ are hearing protection products made to fit the individual’s ear exactly, giving the worker a personalized, custom hearing protector (earplug) which can be worn all day long, while receiving “REAL WORLD” attenuation*.  dB Blocker™ custom molded hearing protectors (earplugs) are made from a Skinsoft™ blend of medical grade silicones, which is as soft and flexible as your own skin.

One of the problems with any hearing loss prevention program is getting people to wear hearing protectors and policing their use. However, with dB Blockers™ compliance is easy because they are comfortable. dB Blockers are custom molded so they only fit one way; the correct way, like a key in a lock, so it is not necessary to check insertion.

HEAR WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

” I am happy to recommend Custom Protect Ear’s dB Blockers for use by our employees at our plant.

I have had and continue to have the pleasure of working with the Custom Protect Ear (CPE) team for the past two years as we have provided all of our employees with dB Blockers.

Since the initial fitting and subsequent implementation of these earplugs, we have seen a 100% reduction in employee Standard Threshold Shift’s (STS’s) during our annual hearing surveys, and fully expect this trend to continue in the future.

The CPE team provided all of the resources needed to fit all of our employees and future hired employees. Employees simply are fitted, and within three weeks their new dB Blockers arrive and are immediately utilized by the employee(s) while working in our production areas, where the average noise level is 92 dB’s.

Without hesitation, I recommend Custom Protect Ear, their team, and the dB Blocker earplugs as a valuable part of your hearing conservation program.”

Sincerely,

Safety & Environmental Manager
Company Confidential.

Learn why more companies are choosing dB Blockers.


SOURCE

OHSA POCKET GUIDE: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3498noise-in-construction-pocket-guide.pdf

*attenuation

To make slender, fine, or small: The drought attenuated the river to a narrow channel. To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken: Medicine attenuated the fever’s effect.
Electronics To reduce (the amplitude of an electrical signal) with little or no distortion.

6 Health & Safety Workplace trends for 2018

January 11, 2018

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

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

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

  1. Increased Focus on Employee Health and Wellness

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

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

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

  1. Capturing the Voice of the Employee: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Addressing the Changing Nature of the Workforce:  

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

  1. Safety Personnel Hiring Requirements

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

Occupational Health Safety Officer

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

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

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

The ProtectEar Team


SOURCE

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

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

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

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

 

Hearing Conservation Program

March 30, 2017

NIHL & Hearing Conservation Program

A Hearing Conservation Program consisting of noise hazard identification, hearing protection, education, hearing testing and noise reduction, will reduce the potential of WSIB claims lasting decades.

Common side effects of hearing loss include:

  • Communication Problems
  • Social Isolation
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Noise induced hearing loss

Noise induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. One in 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects his or her ability to understand normal speech. Excessive noise exposure is the most common cause of hearing loss.

“The National Institute of Health reports that about 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have high frequency hearing loss related to occupational or leisure activities.”

NIHL begins by impairing the ability to hear high pitch sounds such as beeps and whistles. It is these tones that break up words into syllables, without which, voices (particularly women’s and children’s) sound muffled, as though they were talking with their hands over your mouth. These tones also provide the directional cues that help us locate the source of a sound. Diminished ability to hear these tones can lead to accidents, miscommunication, and other costly mistakes both on the job and elsewhere. And eventually, the hearing loss begins to spread to the lower pitch tones as well, making it difficult to hear all voices, music, and many other things in our everyday life.

“Torey Nalbone, associate professor and chair of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler, suggests it’s the unprotected noises that we take for granted that are short durations at significant intensity levels – those are the ones that are sneaking up on workers and causing hearing conservation problems.”

Hearing Conservation

Impact of NIHL

Employees with noise induced hearing loss often describe their lives as one of isolation, both at work and at home. They get confused and are unable to follow conversations, especially in crowded, noisy places. And because they have trouble hearing voices, they often live under tremendous anxiety and stress that affects both their job and their family life.

Under OSHA rules, the permissible exposure limit for noise in the construction industry is 90 decibels, measured as an 8-hour time-weighted average. At that level, employers are required to provide a hearing conservation program for workers. However, NIOSH advocates lowering the PEL in construction to 85 dBA, which is the cap OSHA sets for general industry.

Hearing Conservation: When an employer is required to provide hearing protectors

Employers must provide hearing protectors to all workers exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above. This requirement ensures that employees have access to protectors before they experience any hearing loss.

Employees must wear hearing protectors:

  • For any period exceeding 6 months from the time they are first exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dB or above, until they receive their baseline audiograms if these tests are delayed due to mobile test van scheduling;
  • If they have incurred standard threshold shifts that demonstrate they are susceptible to noise; and
  • If they are exposed to noise over the permissible exposure limit of 90 dB over an 8-hour TWA.

Employers must provide employees with a selection of at least one variety of hearing plug and one variety of hearing muff. Employees should decide, with the help of a person trained to fit hearing protectors, which size and type protector is most suitable for the working environment. The protector selected should be comfortable to wear and offer sufficient protection to prevent hearing loss.

Hearing protectors must adequately reduce the noise level for each employee’s work environment. Most employers use the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) that represents the protector’s ability to reduce noise under ideal laboratory conditions. The employer then adjusts the NRR to reflect noise reduction in the actual working environment.

The employer must reevaluate the suitability of the employee’s hearing protector whenever a change in working conditions may make it inadequate. If workplace noise levels increase, employees must give employees more effective protectors. The protector must reduce employee exposures to at least 90 dB and to 85 dB when an STS already has occurred in the worker’s hearing. Employers must show employees how to use and care for their protectors and supervise them on the job to ensure that they continue to wear them correctly. [1]

Prevention: Establish a workplace Hearing Conservation Program

Most NIHL is due to over-exposure to high noise levels in the workplace and it is the responsibility of the employer to prevent this over-exposure with a hearing conservation program. This does not simply mean giving them some hearing protectors and leaving them on their own. What type of hearing protector is appropriate? What is the appropriate noise reduction rating for the protectors? Do you know the actual noise level the will be used in? How will you ensure the hearing protectors will be worn properly (or at all)? Have you considered reducing the noise at the source? This could potentially eliminate the risk altogether. Maybe the cost of buying a quieter hand tool is less than the long-term cost of the hearing protectors. A comprehensive HCP will deal with all of these issues and ensure the long-term hearing safety of the workers.

A comprehensive Hearing Conservation Program consists of the following elements:

  • Noise Survey and Noise Dosimetry measurement
  • Engineered noise control
  • Hazard postings
  • Hearing Protectors (See dB Blockers) 
  • Baseline & annual hearing tests
  • Hearing Safety Education and Training
  • Annual program review

So if you are looking to reduce noise where you can, provide hearing protection devices where you can’t, help the participants understand the program and how it benefits them, and check them regularly for hearing loss, then we suggest you get a Hearing Conservation Program tailored to your company’s needs.

A strong emphasis must be put on the educational components of the program. These will be the cornerstone of the program and will play a large part in the relative success.

Hearing Conservation Resources: 

CPE Hearing Conservation Checklist

Management Essentials for an Effective Hearing Conservation Program


SOURCES 

[1] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3074/osha3074.html

http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/10077-creating-a-sound-hearing-conservation-program

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3074/osha3074.html