Protecting workers with hearing loss

August 15, 2019

A growing number of workers wear hearing aids, such as behind-the-ear or in-canal models, that can’t be used with foam earplugs. What does OSHA allow, and what actually works to mask most noise but allow conversations with earplug-wearing co-workers?

Workers with hearing loss may have difficulty communicating over background noise, especially when they also must wear hearing protection. There are no specific regulations for this population, but these workers are subject to the same OSHA requirements as workers with normal hearing. OSHA does offer some guidance, suggesting that workers with hearing loss may benefit from hearing protection that is enhanced for better communication.

Several hearing protectors can enhance audibility without compromising safety. Some of these enhanced options include passive uniform-attenuation hearing protectors, active level-dependent hearing protectors and the combination of passive earmuffs worn over hearing aids.

Hearing Loss

Passive uniform-attenuation

Uniform-attenuation (also called “flat” attenuation) hearing protectors are designed to provide relatively uniform attenuation of sound at all frequencies. Conventional hearing protectors attenuate more high-frequency energy, where important speech information resides. Hearing protectors with a uniform response can make speech sound more clear and natural. Workers, including those with hearing loss, may find communication easier with these types of products.

Active level-dependent

Active hearing protectors (also known as electronic earmuffs with sound amplification/high noise suppression) require a power source. Most are level-dependent, meaning they amplify low-level sounds while limiting high-level sounds so they don’t exceed a specified level (usually 82 dBA). These products have been shown to improve speech communication for individuals with hearing loss.1 Some active hearing protectors also incorporate communication features and can connect to other devices. This type of connection can benefit someone with hearing loss because the attenuation properties of the hearing protector will still limit the noise while transmitting only the wanted communication.

Hearing aids, earmuffs

The use of hearings aids in noisy work settings should be approached with caution. Hearing aids should never be worn in noisy environments without the addition of a protective earmuff. Research shows that wearing a passive earmuff over a hearing aid can improve communication for workers with hearing loss, while maintaining safe noise exposure levels.2 Wearing a passive uniform-attenuation earmuff over hearing aids may offer even more improvement by transmitting more of those high-frequency speech sounds. Workers with hearing aids should see their audiologist to optimize the use of their hearing aids with an appropriate hearing protector.

 

Workers with hearing loss have unique communication needs, and their hearing protection should be tailored to their job demands, noise environment, hearing loss and individual preferences. Finding the right solution can help maintain communication, safety and satisfaction at work, while protecting the worker’s hearing.


Sources 

  1. Giguère, C., Laroche, C., & Vaillancourt, V. (2015). The interaction of hearing loss and level-dependent hearing protection on speech recognition in noise. International Journal of Audiology, 54 (sup1), S9-S18.
  2. Verbsky, B. L. (2002). Effects of conventional passive earmuffs, uniformly attenuating passive earmuffs, and hearing aids on speech intelligibility in noise. PhD Dissertation. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University.

What is hearing loss?

August 9, 2019

After our eyes, the most important sensory organ is our ears, thus hearing loss has significant consequences. In most cases, hearing loss is age-related. However, it can also be triggered by loud noises or infections, or may be hereditary.

Hearing loss may occur very suddenly, although in most cases it is gradual, and so you only become aware of it as it progresses. Fortunately, in most cases impaired hearing can be improved, or even fully corrected, either by using a proper hearing protection device or by using a hearing aid. 

First signs of Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss rarely occurs all of a sudden. It usually develops gradually, over a long period of time – and is therefore imperceptible at first. This is because those affected gradually get used to the onset of hearing loss. Because the brain can compensate for the hearing deficiencies for a long time, there are few disadvantages in everyday life during the first phase.

hearing loss

But from a certain point, hearing loss can no longer be readily compensated for. Often, this is noticed by family and friends of the affected person long before they themselves realize they cannot hear normally. Hearing loss can have an impact on your daily life either socially and recreationally. With an already noisy world we have started to see hearing loss grow in the workplace as well. Solutions like a custom hearing protection device such as dB Blockers has grown in popularity amongst individuals and employers. Learn more. 

Long Term Affects of Hearing Loss

Even those affected by hearing loss who know that they can no longer hear perfectly often still do nothing for a long time. Using the argument “It’s still OK!”, they put off a hearing test with an audiologist or ENT doctor. This is because being aware of your own hearing loss is one thing, but acknowledging it is not so easy.

hearing loss

The problem is that if you wait too long, you risk serious consequences. Researchers have found that after about seven years, our brains simply lose the ability to hear certain sounds.

If you can hear these sounds again with a hearing aid, they may no longer be correctly interpreted, and are therefore often perceived as excessively loud and unpleasant – even if it’s something as harmless as the rustling of leaves or a friendly conversation next door.

The following three questions may help you find out if you have hearing loss:

  1. Do you hear low background noise excessively loudly?
  2. Do you have the TV on very loud?
  3. Do you find conversations stressful?

To Learn more about hearing loss contact your local Audiologist. Also check out our resources page. 

 


Source:https://www.connecthearing.ca/hearing-loss/

 

How to Find Calm in a Noisy World

July 30, 2019

Our world today involves constant noise and interruptions.

Whether it is traffic and sirens in the city, lawnmowers and overhead planes in the suburbs, the hum and noise of the refrigerator and dishwasher, or the ringing of our cell phones, it is all hard to escape.

 

We have become so accustomed to daily noise that without it we feel unproductive.  While we become used to these sounds and can often ignore them, unfortunately, they are affecting our health in both physical and mental ways.

lawnmower

Health Hazards of Noise

The American Speech Language Hearing Association estimates that 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels on a regular basis and that number continues to rise yearly.  Constant exposure to traffic and overhead plane noise is causing injuries to the hair cells in our ears by “knocking them down.” These hair cells are how we transmit sound to our brains.  Hair cells can recover if we avoid noise and give them a chance to restore themselves back to normal.

Researchers have found that the stress of constant noise increases blood pressure, heart rate and the release of our stress hormones.  When we are startled by sounds, it can cause a surge of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones that create that fight or flight reaction in our bodies.   There have even been links found between constant noise and diabetes, respiratory disorders and cancer.   Even though we adapt to screen out noises over time, they are still affecting our nervous systems, whether we are consciously bothered by them or not.  Our annoyance of the racket has been associated with depression and anxiety issues.  The noise disturbs our sleep, affects our ability to focus, can cause unhealthy food choices and ups our stress level; all things that can contribute to heart disease.

Planes

How to Combat All That Noise

Thankfully, there are strategies to help us deal with noise.

  • Taking time for a walk in nature is a great way to alleviate all that loudness.  The sounds we hear in nature like birds, rustling leaves and the sounds of the ocean waves have the opposite effect of the noises we hear on a daily basis.  They are calming and lower our stress levels, helping us to focus more clearly.
  • Meditation is another excellent way to calm the clanging.  Through meditation, we can learn to acknowledge the sound as just another sound and let us avoid being so riled up by the noise.
  • At night, the use of a sound machine, a humidifier or other form of white noise can help cancel out loud sounds, especially for those of us who live in the city where there can be constant traffic and noise late at night.

The use of ear plugs at night can also help block outside noise as well as the snoring of our spouses.  Some options of hearing protection include personal custom hearing protection like dB Life and dB Blockers. dB stands for decibel blockers and they do exactly that. dB Blockers™ offer “The Smartest Hearing Protection in the World” especially where interpersonal communication is required. dB Blockers™ are custom fit to each individual wearer for maximum comfort and are made from Skinsoft™ medical silicone. dB Blockers™ are particularly suited for industrial applications where communication between individuals is desired. These hearing protectors can be worn for a complete shift, without the need to remove them to talk on the phone, eat or relieve pressure. A must for all hearing conservation programs.

Only dB Blockers offer superior hearing protection while enabling individuals to communicate clearly with each other. Learn More. 

Another option is noise-cancelling headphones which help reduce outside noise so you we can listen to music or television at a quieter level.  Recapturing some peace and quiet will help improve our health and those jangled nerves.  It is okay to feel a sense of calm and stillness in our lives and we will probably find ourselves to be even more productive.

Either way – whatever option you choose, just choose something to find calm in a loud noisy world 


Source:

Tonia DeCosimo, Entrepreneur, Author, Columnist & Host

dB Blockers Want You to Protect your Hearing this Summer

July 23, 2019

Every season brings about new and traditional events that are mainly planned around weather and special occasions.

Summer is one season where people cannot get enough of outdoor activities such as swimming, motorcycling, outdoor music festivals, fire works and celebrations.  All these summer adventures come with some risk to a person’s hearing health. It is no secret that Summer months are generally the peak season for noise pollution.

motorcycling

 

People needing their Vitamin D and fresh air add to the heightened noise we encounter during this time. Other common activities contributing to noise pollution are:

  • Construction sites are more active
  • Paving and road maintenance typically done during the good weather
  • Increased traffic around common gathering areas
  • Outdoor Music events
  • Public gatherings in parks and recreation areas
  • Sports venues
  • Longer daylight hours that keep people active later

 

Summer Hearing Protection

As North America’s largest personalized industrial custom hearing protector manufacturer, hearing conservation is our only business. Custom Protect Ear (CPE) cares about hearing health for workers and individuals alike.   

So, to better equip you for a noisy summer, we wanted to share some of our favourite hearing protection styles:

 

dB Life™ Sweet Tones Musicians Earpieces

dB Life™ Sweet Tones Musicians Earpieces

Great for those outdoor concerts

dB Life™ Sweet Tones Musicians Earpieces are hearing protectors that reduce all frequencies equally by 9 dB, 15 dB or 25 dB with corresponding Flat Attenuation Filters. It is designed for musicians or concertgoers who want to hear music without distortion but with less volume.

dB Life™ Swimmers

dB-Life-swimmers

Great for swimming in oceans,  lakes and pools

The dB Life™ Swimmers are ear plugs designed for individuals who wish to avoid getting water in their ears. They are made from a special formula of silicones, custom blended to allow them to float. Note: This is not a hearing protector.

 

dB Life™ All Sport – Earpiece and Headset

Great for biking, hiking, cycling or just working out

The dB Life™ All Sport earpieces and headset are designed to be comfortably worn under a helmet. Whether biking, skiing, snow boarding, cycling or pumping iron, ALLSPORT™ products offer the noise isolation and comfort of the dB Life™ custom earpiece and high-fidelity stereo sound from your digital music player (iPod compatible) or bike sound system.

dB Life™ Sleepers – Vented or Non-Vented

dB Blocker Discreet Non VenteddB Blocker Discreet vented

Great for Traveling and or Camping

The dB Life™ Sleepers are is much quieter than exposing your ears to the noise you are trying to sleep in.  Sleepers reduce the ambient sound about 20 dB.  They still let you hear the smoke alarm, telephone, clock radio alarm, and baby crying.  We wouldn‘t want it any other way.

dB Life™ Discreet Vented

dB Blocker Discreet custom fit hearing protection are a low profile option where conversation is also required. Used in hospitality and air travel where noise is an issue.

dB Blocker™ Classic Vented

Classic-Vented-

Great for everyday wear in noisy environments!

The dB Blocker™ Classic Vented and filtered hearing protector (earplug) is designed for situations where interpersonal conversation in noise is required without removing the protector.

So there you have it – these are some of our favorite hearing protection devices that allow people to get through the summer without  incurring damage to their hearing. We also carry hearing protection for Security and Industrial sectors as well as communication devices.


Learn more about Custom Protect Ear’s Hearing Protection Products 

A Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

July 9, 2019

by Stephen Yontz, President of FitHearing, LLC

Hearing loss affects over 48 million people in the U.S., according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, and puts them at greater risk for cognitive decline and even dementia. The age group affected by the greatest amount of hearing loss are those between 60-69 years old.

Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore says, “The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging.” However, recent findings suggest that it may play a much more important role in brain health than we’ve previously thought, he added.

There have been recent, well-regarded studies that support the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could aid in the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Dr. Lin has authored several recent studies that aim to link hearing and cognitive problems that range from mild impairment all the way to dementia. He and other researchers have theories about an explanation for the link between the two, though they are not sure which will prove true.

The Search for Connections

A 2013 study led by Dr. Lin and his colleagues tracked the overall cognitive abilities of memory, concentration, and planning skills of almost 2,000 people with an average age of 77. Over six years, participants who began the study with hearing loss severe enough that it interfered with their conversation were 24 percent more likely to see their cognitive abilities diminish than those with normal hearing. The researchers found that hearing loss seemed to hasten age-related cognitive decline.

In 2011, Dr. Lin and his colleagues studied the cognitive health of 639 mentally sharp people in a study that focused on dementia. The volunteers’ mental abilities were tested regularly, with many participating for about 12 years and others for as many as 18 years.

The notable results showed that the worse the initial hearing loss was, the more likely the participant was to develop dementia. When compared to people with normal hearing, the risk was three times as great for those with moderate hearing loss.

Another study offers more hope still. Led by Isabelle Mosnier of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris in France and published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, March 2015, the study consisted of a group of 94 people ages 65-85 with profound deafness in at least one ear. Each of the participants received a cochlear implant followed by auditory rehabilitation twice a week. Those with the lowest cognitive scores showed remarkable improvement one year after implantation.

While the study had shortcomings, “the improvement in cognition was huge — about double that seen with any of the current [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] FDA drugs for treating Alzheimer’s,” says P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D. The professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and coauthor of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan also theorizes that the findings about hearing loss affecting cognitive function could also apply to other senses, like vision, smell, and touch. “Studies have shown that uncorrected vision problems raise the risk for dementia,” he says.

 

Possible Connections Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Some doctors hesitate to acknowledge a connection between disabling hearing loss and cognitive decline and dementia, but more and more healthcare professionals are accepting the possibility. “Every doctor knows that hearing loss can result in cognitive problems, but they still don’t focus on it as a priority when they evaluate someone with suspected dementia — which is a big missed opportunity,” Doraiswamy says.

“The benefits of correcting hearing loss on cognition are twice as large as the benefits from any cognitive-enhancing drugs now on the market. It should be the first thing we focus on.

Dr. Lin suggests four possible ways hearing loss might contribute to cognitive decline and dementia. The first is a condition like high blood pressure: a common physiological pathway that contributes to both, but he and other researchers used statistical methods to take into account the factors known to be associated with both conditions, so Lin does not have much confidence in this explanation.

The second possibility has to with “cognitive load,” or the effort of constantly straining to understand puts stress on the brain. Intuitively, this connection makes sense.

Arthur Wingfield, professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University, explains, “If you put in a lot of effort just to comprehend what you’re hearing, it takes resources that would otherwise be available for encoding [what you hear] in memory.” His lab’s research has documented this effect on a short-term basis. He questions if whether years of drawing resources away from brain functions such as working memory will eventually reduce the brain’s resilience.

A third possibility, proposed by both Wingfield and Lin, suggests that hearing loss might affect brain structure in a way that contributes to cognitive problems. It has been found that older adults with hearing loss have less gray matter in the part of the brain that receives and processes sounds, according to Wingfield. Certain brain cells shrink in the absence of constant stimuli. Wingfield then raises the question whether getting clearer speech signals to the brain through use of a modern hearing aid might allow these brain structures to recover their previous size and function.

Lastly, it is likely that social isolation plays a part. Having disabling hearing loss tends to isolate people from their friends and family. The constant struggle to follow conversation often makes hard of hearing people not want to socialize in groups. Social isolation has been infamously recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

 

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

It will certainly take more research in the coming years to pinpoint the factors associated. Can state-of-the-art treatment prevent or delay cognitive decline and dementia, Dr. Lin wonders? He and his team have received funds from the National Institute of Health to plan and develop a definitive clinical trial to monitor a large group of older adults with hearing loss. Half of the participants will receive best-practice hearing treatment and the other half will get what Dr. Lin calls “watchful waiting.” The study will track the participants’ cognitive functions, with results available in 2020 at the earliest.

If you have hearing loss, Dr. Lin believes that one should get the best treatment available, as it can also take into account your mental health and cognitive ability as well. There is much room for improvement, though, as fewer than 15 to 20 percent of those with a clinically significant hearing loss even use hearing aids.

 

About the Author

Stephen Yontz is Founder and President of FitHearing – a new-patient referral service for local practices with a focus on maintaining and valuing professional Audiology and hearing care, while serving an emerging market for price-shopping, informed hearing aid consumers. He is Co-Owner and Director of Operations for an Audiology practice in Nashville, TN, and shortly after assuming this role, he recognized a need for the support of those patients that are not willing to pay the “seemingly” high price for traditional hearing care – those that inevitably seek alternative solutions that do not meet the basic needs of a person suffering from hearing loss.  

He believes that as an industry we are largely falling short in terms of serving our customer with innovative and alternative solutions to meet everyone’s hearing health and financial needs.  FitHearing offers patients the option to purchase the latest and greatest hearing aids at very affordable prices, while integrating the vital care of a local Audiologist or hearing specialist as a means for the patient to receive proper programming, fitting, counseling, and adjustments of his/her hearing aids.  

Stephen is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, with an M.S. Mechanical Engineering and an MBA.  Stephen lives with his wife and two cats in Nashville, TN, where he spends his spare time playing golf, “picking at” his guitar, going to the movies, exercising, and trying new foods.  Truthfully, he spends most of his time thinking of new ways to serve the hearing industry and develop innovative solutions for the future generations of hearing aid users.


Motorcycle Riding: Protect your hearing

June 27, 2019

As the temperatures rise and the days are longer activities and outings change. These changes related to summer often mean BBQs, gatherings, Motorcycling and July 1 and 4th festivities with friends and family. And what also does occur is more noise; noise when riding, noisy music, noisy fireworks and even noisier traffic such as motorcycle riding.

Motorcycle Riding: Protect your hearing; the effort is worth it

Whether you wear a full-face helmet, a three-quarter or a shorty, earplugs are a must. Hearing damage is cumulative and permanent. It takes a little effort to find an earplug that will work for you, but it will be worth it. It’s much less cost and effort than hearing aids, I can assure you.
Wear Your Protection:

When your ears are exposed to constant wind noise, several things happen: the cilia inside your ears get tired (no, seriously) and collapse. Your brain gets tired from filtering out all that extraneous noise, and that causes unnecessary fatigue. The nerve connections between your ears and your brain can sustain damage.

All of that combined means hearing loss. If you’ve ever found your ears ringing after a stint on the highway, that means, without question, you are damaging your hearing. A 60mph wind will cause hearing damage within 15 minutes. You have 7 minutes at 75mph, and 3 minutes at 85mph with no hearing protection. Yes, if you’re not wearing earplugs you are definitely slowly going deaf.Motorcyles

Windshields and full-face helmets can damp the wind noise some, but they often just change the windflow without quieting the noise. Earplugs are a great low-cost way to protect your hearing. The frequency of wind is excellent at damaging humans’ hearing. Earplugs will filter out those frequencies but they absolutely do still allow you to hear sirens, horns, and other traffic warnings. If you find the earplugs you’ve used block too much sound, try different ones.

There are a bunch of different earplugs on the market, and they can be divided into two simple categories: disposable and reusable. Disposable earplugs are made of foam, and the general rule is, they work well three times: if you wear them all day three days in a row, or if you take them out and reinsert them three times in one day, they’re done, the foam wears out, and they don’t hold a good seal anymore. They must be inserted in a specific way into your ear, and you can see that process on the CDC website here.

Hearing Protection – Earplug Options

There are also Reusable or custom hearing protection which is a little more expensive, but they will last you about 5 years and the fit your ear exactly. Custom Protect Ear’s dB Life All Sport Earpiece and Headset is the rider who wants to listen to their digital music player or radio, All Sport™ is the ideal way to take your tunes on the road. All Sport™ is a headset that connects to your digital music player and is specially designed to work in the harsh environment bikers endure. Wind noise, bike rumble, and traffic sound compound to make listening to radio or music a challenge while riding. Learn More about the All Sport. 

Whatever option you choose – it is imperative you choose at least one. If you are unsure then we recommend you ask your friends what earplugs they use, and if you can try a pair of theirs: that’s the easiest, cheapest way to go about finding a good, comfortable pair of earplugs. If you want a longer term solution then check out Custom Protect Ears website to find a hearing solution for you and your lifestyle need.

Good luck everybody, and happy hearing!


SOURCE

https://www.rideapart.com/articles/355870/ear-plugs-protect-your-hearing/

Being Safe on Canada Day & Independence Day

June 18, 2019

The Fourth of July and fireworks are traditional in the US, and go together like hamburgers and hot dogs. Just like the Canada Day celebration on July 1 is also filled with fireworks and festivities. And, as thrilling as it is to watch fireworks, care should be exercised because the sound pressures generated by fireworks can lead to hearing damage if proper precautions are not employed.

firework celebration

Short History

Ancient China introduced fireworks, but they have a special place in American history as well.  In 1776, just after the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress, John Adams, the second US President, wrote to his wife Abigail that America’s independence ought to be solemnized “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”  By illuminations, he was referring to fireworks.

Fireworks and Your Hearing

Public fireworks, though not typically heard up close, are still explosions and can be very loud.

Fireworks can reach maximum sound output levels in the 130 to 150 dB SPL range, certainly, way beyond peak sound pressure levels recommended for children 120 dB, or 140 dB SPL for adults as recommended by the World Health Organization.  In the United States, OHSA noise regulations are used to determine the allowable noise exposure.

Keep in mind that the sound level of fireworks tends to be related to how/where they are used, with the levels increasing from category 1 through 4:

  1. Indoor fireworks
  2. Garden fireworks
  3. Display fireworks for open areas such as fields
  4. Professional fireworks for large open spaces

In recent years the number of “quieter” fireworks have increased for consumer fireworks, with 120 dB noise limit on all consumer fireworks, and the amount of flash powder (a chemical that produces the loud bangs) reduced (European Union).  Looking at the list of fireworks sold as quieter items, these have whistles or crackles instead of bangs. However, for large fireworks displays, if one is looking for something spectacular – quiet and spectacular do not mix.  The reason is because “spectacular” is achieved by large bursting effects that create a lot of noise.

Firework Noise Prevention 

Of course, the level to which one may be exposed to high noise levels depends on the location of the observer from the fireworks, and the type of fireworks.  An open environment is better than an environment surrounded by large buildings, especially if they are close to the point of explosion.  In this case, the sound can bounce from one building to the next, sometimes enforcing the sound.  Sound in an open environment is dissipated more readily.

Helpful Hints

To Decrease Noise Exposure – Increase Distance

The further one is from the fireworks, the lower is the overall sound level, making it less likely that the levels will affect hearing.  But, how far away should one be for protection?

Have a little fireworks fun using some basic math

1.  Estimate distance.  Upon seeing the “flash” of the fireworks, count the number of seconds until you hear the “boom” associated with it.  Sound in air travels at approximately 1100 ft/sec.  In the example below, if the time between seeing the flash until you hear the blast is 3 seconds, you can expect the distance from the fireworks sound source is 0.6 miles.

Distance

 

2.  Estimate sound level.  Assume this is a large public fireworks display and that the fireworks at 10 feet is a sound level of 150 dB SPL.   This is a “guesstimate” level based on a number of current published measurements.  Keep also in mind that more recent fireworks makers have been working at “softer” fireworks levels.  If you were a half mile away, the sound level would be 102 dB SPL.  If the measured sound level is less than 150 dB, each successive halving of the distance lowers the overall sound level 6 dB.

Level With Distance

A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are “too loud,” “too close,” or that last “too long.”

 

Noise Levels Large DisplaysTo the right is a sample of non scientific measurements made at a major fireworks show, with 9 measurements made during this large audience display.  The range of measurement duration was between 52 seconds and 19 minutes, with some measurements of an entire display (#5) and some much shorter with just a single rocket (#9).  Distance from the sound source was not specified.  A summary of the overall data follows{{1}}[[1]]Tingay, J. Noise levels from fireworks – a very unscientific measurement, Noise News, November 2011[[1]]:

 

Hearing Protection

Brie dB BlockersWear earplugs or headphones/earmuffs to protect hearing, especially that of children.  For children, ear protection can have an additional advantage – the child will be less frightened by the loud sounds.  Multiple styles of hearing protection are readily available at any sport shop or from a hearing professional, but for children, headphones may be the best choice because they are more likely to remain in place.

The packaging of any hearing protection should indicate the NRR (noise reduction rating).  The higher the number, the better the protection.  It is unlikely that you will find hearing protection with NRR ratings above about 30 dB, meaning that they are stated to reduce the noise level by 30 dB.  It is important that earplugs fit into the ear canal properly to provide the maximum protection promoted on the package. Because fit does matter – we are seeing more individuals are purchasing custom hearing protection like dB Blockers.


SOURCE

Will OSHA Bring The Heat This Summer?

June 17, 2019

 

This past Memorial Day weekend, the southeastern region of the United States experienced a historic heatwave that set all-time records. It’s only going to get hotter, and temperatures throughout the summer can create hazards for workers working both outside and inside. You could be held liable for creating conditions that lead to heat-related injuries and illnesses that may occur during these warm months, so you should take steps now to keep your employees safe and limit your legal exposure.

This past Memorial Day weekend, the southeastern region of the United States experienced a historic heatwave that set all-time records. It’s only going to get hotter, and temperatures throughout the summer can create hazards for workers working both outside and inside. You could be held liable for creating conditions that lead to heat-related injuries and illnesses that may occur during these warm months, so you should take steps now to keep your employees safe and limit your legal exposure.

Current Legal Framework

Although the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments, the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires you to provide a place of employment that is “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” This includes heat-related hazards. Meanwhile, state OSHA plans in California, Washington, and Minnesota have enacted protective heat standards.

But just because federal OSHA does not have a specific standard in place doesn’t mean it hasn’t spoken on the subject. The agency has issued various Standard Interpretation letters discussing heat stress in workplaces. In a May 2010 Standard Interpretation letter, OSHA provided methods of abating heat stress hazards in workplaces, including permitting workers to drink water or cold liquids (e.g., sports drinks) at liberty, establishing a work/rest regimen so that exposure time to high temperatures and the work rate is decreased, and developing an overall heat stress program.

In August 2014, OSHA again addressed heat-related hazards by announcing that it was once again sponsoring its campaign to “Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.” The agency noted that “thousands of workers experience serious heat-related illnesses every year and dozens are killed,” and that it wanted “to make sure that employers and workers know the steps they can take to prevent heat-related illness and death.”

Pressure To Adopt Federal Standards 

Both of these letters, however, were issued under the previous presidential administration, and the current administration has been largely silent in addressing the issue. Some advocacy groups want to change that and have tried to put heat on OSHA to address the matter head on.

Public Citizen, a consumer and health advocacy group, along with 131 other organizations and 89 other individuals (including farmworker advocacy groups and former OSHA directors), sent a letter to the Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Health and Safety on July 17, 2018 petitioning federal OSHA to establish the first federal standards to protect outdoor and indoor workers from occupational exposure to excessive heat. The petitioning parties cite the effects of global warming and climate change as causing the need for the agency to establish protection for workers from the dangers of exposure to excessive heat.

Public Citizen highlights in its petition that California conducted 50 times more inspections resulting in a citation or violation for unsafe heat exposure practices as federal OSHA did nationwide between 2013 and 2017. The group argues that this disparity supports the federal agency implementing a specific, enforceable heat standard rather than simply relying on the General Duty Clause.

Suggested Criteria

Public Citizen argues any proposed standard should be based on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) latest criteria for a recommended standard for occupational exposure to heat and hot environments. The suggested standard includes elements such as:

  • Mandatory Rest Breaks: Mandatory rest breaks away from the hot environment in duration from 15 to 45 minutes per hour at certain heat thresholds.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: When heat exposure levels reach the recommended exposure limit or recommended alert limit, employers must provide PPE to protect workers from heat-related illness. Such PPE may include cooling vests and light-colored, breathable fabric.
  • Shade: Employers must provide access to sufficient areas of shade during the rest breaks.
  • Hydration: Access to water in quantities sufficient to maintain adequate levels of hydration at varying levels of heat, as well as electrolytes if workers are sweating for more than two hours.
  • Heat Acclimatization Plan: Workers beginning work in high-heat environments, or who will be working in hotter conditions than usual, must be gradually acclimatized to the work over a period of at least 7-14 days.

Public Citizen and other groups previously petitioned federal OSHA for a heat standard in 2011. At that point, OSHA formally rejected the petition citing its authority to cite an employer for heat hazards under the General Duty Clause. It appears likely that OSHA maintains that position, as it has not responded to Public Citizen’s July 2018 correspondence. However, Congress – specifically the now Democrat-controlled House – may pressure OSHA to take action when it comes to heat standards.

Despite the lack of a specific standard addressing heat safety, you should follow the NIOSH guidelines when temperatures rise and your employees are exposed to extreme heat.


SOURCES

Fisher Phillips – Nicholas Hulse and Travis W. Vance

Noise Sensitivity Exists, Even in The Smallest of Ears

June 11, 2019

Custom Protect Ear (CPE) has been creating personalized hearing protection for over 40 years. Although CPE has been servicing the industrial sector, it’s technology and innovation has been able to reach and help children with sensitivity to noise. Recently, a concerned mother reached out to our Head Office in Surrey BC, Canada asking for the possibility of helping her four-year-old son, Gabe, with noise sensitivity.

Gabe has Potocki-Lupski syndrome (PTLS) which mimics autism traits including hearing sensitivity.

The noise sensitivity has stopped Gabe from engaging with his peers and he has become overwhelmed in high traffic areas such as a play center or shopping mall where the noise is enhanced. The team at Custom Protect Ear was so inspired by Gabe’s journey, they decided to get him fitted for a pair of dB Blockers and send them to him in Australia.

Laura, Canadian Director of Sales, took this project under her wing. Laura liaised with the family and walked them through the impression and manufacturing process and provided them with a pair of custom dB Blockers. The one thing that Gabe was tasked with was to pick the color – he chose orange because of his favorite monster truck! After that, Laura advised the family that the Vented Convertible style would be best suited to Gabe’s needs.

When the dB Blockers arrived, Gabe’s dad called his mom 5 times to let her know that they arrived.

After wearing the dB Blockers, Gabe’s mother stated, “this product has had a profound impact on Gabe’s social experiences and has enabled him to participate in activities in a way we have never seen before or dare hoped to see.

dBBlocker - vented convertible

 


Gabe’s Mother had sent Laura an email explaining the impact:

“Hi Laura,

I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Gabe is sensitive to overstimulation of the senses including hearing, usually resulting in anxiety, stimming, hair pulling or biting or running away (and boy is he fast). Tasks like shopping trips were tough, but this also impacted on his ability to participate in social settings such as a playground or party. On day two of wearing his dB Blockers, we tried the mall.  We were surprised by the sudden change in our son’s behavior.

Usually, within 5 minutes, Gabe would become overstimulated and hyperactive or anxious. Instead, he held my hand, walked beside me and pointed at things of interest. For the 40 minutes we were there, he showed no signs of distress. We even ran into a friend who has a child (which usually results in Gabe hiding behind my leg). Gabe walked straight up to him and said hi.

On day 7 of wearing his dB Blockers, Gabe attended a birthday party with more than 30 Guests. Having seen how the dB Blockers had been helping him, we thought it was an ideal test for a social environment. Not only did he stay at the party for more than 10 minutes, but two hours later he was standing among a group of kids collecting lollies. My husband and I watched, trying to hold in tears as we saw our son actively interact with a group of children, he was not familiar with for the first time.

dBBlocker - vented convertible

 

To list all the benefits for Gabe would be too long of an email, however, we want to mention that in the last few weeks, we have watched Gabe’s confidence grow and his social skills flourish. His teachers have commented daily on his eagerness to play with other children, where in the past he played independently on the outskirts.

We have also seen an improvement in the clarity of his speech (he has a significant speech delay) and a newfound determination to try new sounds. Because of your support to acquire dB Blockers for Gabe, his life is changed. Custom Protect Ear has provided Gabe with a tool which allows him greater opportunities to interact with society and express his capabilities. Thank you,” 

Kind regards,

~ ‘Mom, Dad’ and Gabe.


Custom Protect Ear is sincerely committed to making a difference in lives’ that are so adversely affected by noise. Thank you, ‘Mom, Dad’ and Gabe, for letting us be a part of your journey and inspiring us with your strength and courage.

~ The Custom Protect Ear Team.

dBCares

The Not-So-Quiet Dangers of Hearing Loss

June 4, 2019

Take steps to prevent hearing damage in the workplace before it happens.

Some of the most prevalent workplace hazards aren’t seen—they’re heard. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to damaging noise levels at work, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workplace-related hearing loss is the most commonly reported injury.

It’s not surprising, then, that hearing loss disability accounts for an estimated $242 million in workers’ compensation payments each year, according to the Department of Labor.

Approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 15% of those aged 20 to 65 are living with some level of noise-induced hearing loss.

Noises over 85 decibels (dB) warrant the use of protection. For reference, normal talking is 60 dB, city traffic is 85 dB and a rock concert or a tractor is about 100-115 dB. Without proper protection, prolonged noise exposure in a factory setting can compound the hearing loss incurred from everyday noises.

Because hearing damage is cumulative and permanent, it is vital—and in many cases required—for businesses to protect their workers’ hearing, especially for those with a workforce exposed to loud machinery, power tools, and heavy equipment. In this article, we’ll examine the top industries affected by hearing loss and identify opportunities to minimize noise through hearing conservation programs.

INDUSTRIES MOST AFFECTED BY HEARING LOSS

hearing at work

From office environments to busy construction sites, workplace hearing loss is a reality for many industries. However, there are workers in certain roles who are at increased risk of hearing damage, and the needs of these employees should be more closely monitored and accommodated.

Hearing Loss in the Manufacturing Industry

For workers in the manufacturing industry, hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational injury. Between compressed air, which is an estimated 92 dB, and loud machinery like grinders, drills and milling machines, which typically hit dB levels 95 and above, it’s important for employers to take extra care to protect workers’ hearing.

Hearing Loss in the Construction, Carpentry and Mining Industries

Loud power tools also make workers in construction, carpentry and mining industries particularly susceptible to hearing loss. In fact, some tools, like a jackhammer, can reach up to 130 dB—more than 45 dB above the recommended limit. When exposed to these sounds for extended periods of time during a shift, the risk of hearing damage increases.

Likewise, miners are regularly exposed to sounds related to drilling into rock in a confined work environment, and as a result most miners have some form of hearing loss by the time they retire, according to the CDC.
Other industries most commonly affected by hearing loss include entertainment and nightlife, military, agriculture and farming.

WORKPLACE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH HEARING LOSS

Hearing is the body’s built-in alarm system and plays a vital role in protecting a person from physical harm. Hearing picks up on possible dangers that may not be visible yet, like the sound of an approaching truck or the clanging of a broken machine. However, when hearing is compromised, the built-in alarm system isn’t as effective and may not pick up on incoming dangers as quickly, putting workers at risk.

Workplace accidents are common among workers with hearing damage due to reduced situational awareness or the inability to hear a warning siren or signal.

The risks associated with hearing loss don’t stop there. Not only does hearing loss contribute to workplace-related issues, but it can also take a toll on an employee’s quality of life. Hearing loss is permanent, and as it worsens, it can make interpersonal communication difficult and frustrating, putting a strain on relationships. In addition, ringing in the ears associated with hearing loss can be disruptive to normal sleep patterns and concentration, which sometimes can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. All of these factors may contribute to underperformance or dissatisfaction at work.

hearing protection

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT

When it comes to hearing loss, prevention is key. Almost all work-related hearing loss is cumulative and permanent, so it’s important for employers to take steps to prevent damage before it happens.

A great step in preventing work-related hearing damage is to implement a hearing conservation program. Not only do these programs protect workers from occupational hearing loss, but they can also play a role in increasing employees’ sense of well-being and reduce the incidence of stress-related disease. Stress decreases blood flow that helps hair cells within the ear work properly. Therefore, reducing workers’ stress can help maintain the overall health of the ear.

Hearing conservation is an OSHA mandate that requires companies to take action and institute occupational noise and hearing conservation programs for employees who work in areas where the probable exposure to noise equals or exceeds an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) sound level of 85 dB.

An effective hearing conservation program includes regular, ongoing sound monitoring, audiograms, employee training and protective equipment.

Regular, Ongoing Sound Monitoring

Sound level meters and dosimeters are two important elements of an effective hearing conservation program. Sound level meters measure sound intensity at a specific moment, while dosimeters measure a person’s average exposure to noise over a period of time. Employers can monitor and record sound levels throughout the workplace to help employees understand areas where the risk of hearing loss may be higher.

Audiograms

An effective hearing conservation program includes taking a baseline audiogram, which takes place 14 hours or more after the employee was last exposed to occupational noise. Following the baseline audiogram, annual audiograms should be performed to record any changes. These results should be analyzed and compared to previous tests to provide insights into how an employee’s hearing has changed. These changes are recorded as a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) if the loss is greater than a certain level.

An STS is a detectable change in hearing when compared to the baseline audiogram. If a shift is identified, an employer is required to inform the employee within 21 days and refer them to an audiologist for follow-up testing and possible treatment. This also is a good opportunity for both employers and employees to assess hearing protection methods and make any needed changes.

Employee Training

Training workers is another essential step to educating a workforce about the risks associated with hearing loss and the importance of prevention. At a minimum, employers should conduct an annual noise training with all employees, but regular reminders throughout the year are also recommended. For example, hanging educational posters and noise maps, which highlight decibel levels throughout the workplace, is a great way to remind employees throughout the year to take steps to mitigate hearing damage.

It can also be helpful to offer one-on-one educational sessions with individual employees who may be exposed to louder noises on a regular basis.

Protective Equipment

db BlockersIn addition to monitoring and training, employers must also provide workers with suitable equipment to protect hearing while at work. In fact, this is an OSHA requirement for workplaces where the noise levels meet or exceed 85 dB.

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to hearing protection devices and employers can often find several appropriate options that fit the needs of employees and the workplace. Examples include earplugs and earmuffs that come in a wide variety of different styles, like disposable, custom molded and reusable, to fit employers’ and employees’ preferences.


SOURCE

Reed Erickson | EHS Today