Noisey Workplace:  The Importance Of Hearing Protection

October 8, 2019

Hearing Protection In The Workplace

When does hearing loss, or hearing impairment, become the result of a work-related exposure?  After all, we live in a world where loud noises are common, like from heavy city traffic, or even the music so kindly being shared through the open windows of the car stopped next to you.  And there’s often that person who thinks headphones are speakers and has the music playing loud enough that it can be heard by everyone in the room.  So yes, loud noise is common.  And yes, loud noise can lead to hearing loss.

There is no denying that the tools that we use in our lines of work create loud noise, too, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that employees will lose their hearing.  With the proper workplace hearing protection controls in place to eliminate, reduce, and protect against potentially damaging noise exposures, we reduce the chances that our employees will experience occupational hearing loss.

productive workers

Understanding Hearing Damage 

How loud does the noise need to be to damage a person’s hearing?  Hearing loss can occur when exposed to 85 decibels of noise averaged over 8 hours.  Let’s put this in perspective.  Normal conversations typically occur at 60 decibels, well below the hearing loss threshold.  Remember those headphones used as speakers?  That music was probably playing at full volume, which can often register as 105 decibels.  Here’s the thing, though.  For every 3 decibel increase past 85 decibels, hearing loss can occur in half the amount of time.  So it only takes 4 hours of exposure to 88 decibels for hearing loss to occur, and 2 hours of exposure to 91 decibels.  Once noise levels exceed 100 decibels, a person can suffer hearing damage in as little as 15 minutes.  The louder the noise, the faster hearing loss occurs.

ISO 9001

Noise Levels In The Workplace

Where do the tools and environments where we work fit into this picture?

  • Air compressors from 3 feet away register 92 decibels, which would take less than 2 hours to cause hearing loss

  • Powered drills register 98 decibels, which would cause damage after 30 minutes

  • Typical factories often register at 100 decibels – that’s 15 minutes of exposure

  • Powered saws can reach 110 decibels from 3 feet away, which could cause permanent hearing loss in under 2 minuteshearing protection

In short, if workers are exposed to these noise levels without protection, then hearing loss is very likely.  The only way to know the exact noise levels that workers are exposed to is to conduct noise monitoring using specialized equipment, though this is only required when exposures are at or above 85 decibels.  Some indications that noise levels may be this high are if employees complain about the loudness of the noise, if there are signs suggesting that employees are losing their hearing, or if the noise levels make normal conversation difficult.  Also consider that these conditions may not occur across the entire work site, but may be limited to a specific task or piece of machinery.

How then, do we protect our employees and their hearing?

The Importance Of Hearing Protection In The Workplace

The best protection we can provide is to eliminate the hazard, by eliminating the need to work with the tools or in the environments that create these noise exposures.  Realistically, though, this isn’t always possible.  We can also work to reduce the noise levels that employees are exposed to.  Some tools and machines are available that are designed to operate at lower decibels, therefore reducing the risk of hearing loss. 

We can also implement administrative controls, such as placing a cap on the number of hours that an employee can work in a high decibel environment, or limit the hours working with specific tools and equipment.

Our final line of protection is our PPE that meets OSHA hearing protection requirements.  Ear plugs, Custom Hearing Protection and ear muffs can reduce the decibel exposures, providing protection against hearing loss.  Ear plugs provide the greatest amount of protection as long as they are inserted correctly.  Therefore, employees need to be trained to wear them correctly when they are used.  Ear muffs can also reduce the decibel exposures, though not to the extent that ear plugs can.  They are easier to wear correctly, though, which is why some workers prefer them.

Some high decibel exposures may be unavoidable to perform the tasks necessary for our operations, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take steps to protect employees and their hearing while at work.  What they do in their free time, like attending a rock concert (which can peak at 130 decibels), becomes their choice.

Creating & Implementing A Plan For Workplace Hearing Protection

If you need to create or update your safety management plan to include OSHA hearing protection. 


SOURCE

https://www.optimumsafetymanagement.com/blog/noise-importance-hearing-protection-workplace/

SPREAD THE NEWS! October Is National Protect Your Hearing Month

October 3, 2019

During this year’s National Protect Your Hearing Month—observed each October—learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and help Noisy Planet spread the word to others.hearing awareness

NIHL occurs when noise damages tiny hair cells within the cochlea—the small, snail-shaped organ for hearing in the inner ear. When hair cells are damaged, they can’t send information about sound to the brain. Since people can’t grow new hair cells to replace damaged ones, hearing loss from noise is permanent. (Watch Noisy Planet’s Journey of Sound video for a detailed explanation of how we hear.)

People of all ages can develop NIHL. A 2017 study shows that about 13 to 18 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have signs of possible NIHL. Hearing loss from noise may not be obvious at first, but symptoms can build over time. NIHL can make it difficult to communicate with others and to appreciate the sounds of everyday living, such as chirping birds or a crackling fire.

Luckily, NIHL is preventable. Noisy Planet strives to help children and teens make healthy hearing a habit early on, so that they can avoid NIHL for a lifetime. You can help prevent hearing loss from noise by following these simple lifestyle changes:

Turn down the volume.

  • Keep the volume low on smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, and set maximum volume levels on devices used by children and teens. Sounds below 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) are generally considered safe. Sounds at or above 85 dBA are more likely to put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time or are repeated. You can measure the decibel levels of devices and environments with a free app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Move away from the noise.

  • To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the sound. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks or concert speakers.

Wear hearing protectors, earplugs, custom ear plugs or earmuffs.

  • Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event, or in a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. If you’re a parent, carry hearing protectors for your little ones and be a hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you’re caught without hearing protectors, you can cover your ears with your hands.
custom-plugs-vs-disposables

Help spread the message about healthy hearing – Read more


Source – https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/have-you-heard/october-national-protect-your-hearing-month

Hearing Protection Devices and Solutions

September 17, 2019

Steps can be taken to help protect workers’ hearing in a wide variety of industries.

Millions of workers are exposed to hearing hazards every year, and even though OSHA regulations and NIOSH recommendations in the U.S. specify hearing protection, occupational hearing loss is still the number one reported worker illness in manufacturing. Moreover, noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and irreversible, but avoidable with the help of proper hearing protection and other measures. Here we will explore some hearing protection devices (HPD) and other steps that can be taken to help protect workers’ hearing in a wide variety of industries.

Earplugs

When workers are exposed to loud noise, earplugs can offer low-cost, effective hearing protection. These are soft foam or elastic plugs worn inside the ear canal to help block out hazardous sounds. Earplugs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes so there are many choices for workers. With the right fit and insertion techniques, earplugs can provide adequate protection for many types of noisy situations.

Disposable foam earplugs are the most widely used type of HPD. The soft foam is rolled into a tightly compressed cylinder then inserted into the ear so that it conforms to the unique shape of ear canal. They are relatively low price per pair and can result in a high noise reduction when worn correctly.

Push-to-Fit earplugs are soft foam tips with a flexible stem where there is no need to roll down the foam tips before inserting into the ears. This works well for employees who have difficulty rolling and inserting disposable foam earplugs and can even be inserted when hands are dirty or when wearing gloves.

Reusable or Custom earplugs are washable with flexible, elastic flanges attached to a stem and can be reused multiple times and therefore replaced less, potentially resulting in lower long-term cost. The elastic material doesn’t absorb moisture and works well in wet conditions or when employees perspire heavily. One of these personal HPD’s are called dB Blockers.  The dB Blockers™ are hearing protection products made to fit the individual’s ear exactly, this gives the worker a custom hearing protector (earplug) that they can wear all day long, while receiving “REAL WORLD” (what the wearer actually receives) attenuation.

dB Blockers has proprietary frequency tuned filters that allow for communication without removal. People can communicate in noise better while wearing their dB Blockers™ hearing protection than if they were to remove them. Your hearing loss prevention program will not interfere with productivity.

Learn more about custom earplugs.

custom-plugs-vs-disposables

Also, metal detectable earplugs have a stainless steel bead encased in the earplug. Popular in food manufacturing industries when contamination prevention is critical, this type of HPD is available in a variety of comfortable earplug styles to meet most wearer preferences and help address a variety of environmental noise hazards. 

Earmuffs

One of the easiest hearing protectors to wear, earmuffs can quickly be adjusted to provide a snug and reliable fit for a wide range of ear and head sizes. Since earmuffs can be less complicated to put on correctly, most users can intuitively learn to wear them. Additionally, earmuffs allow workers to easily put their hearing protection on and take it off throughout the day as needed.

Earmuffs can be reused time and again, and, if properly cleaned, maintained, and stored, can typically be worn up to two or three years. Also, given the size, they are harder to lose than other hearing protectors. This means you may not need to replace earmuffs as often as other types of hearing protectors. Additionally, the easier and more comfortable personal protection equipment is, the more likely employees may be to wear it. Moreover, because earmuffs are can be easier to see from a distance, it may also be easy to monitor that workers are wearing hearing protection.

Advanced Hearing Protection

Advanced Hearing Protection Solutions can help keep the workers’ hearing protected while enabling them to clearly communicate and hear their surroundings. There are two categories of Advanced HPDs: Protective Hearing Solutions and Protective Communication Solutions.

Protective Hearing Solutions allow you to hear normally when it’s quiet and provide protection when it’s loud. This type of HPD can be effective when:

  • There is intermittent, varying, and/or unpredictable noise
  • Workers are tempted to remove their hearing protection to communicate
  • Enhanced situational awareness is desired, e.g. moving vehicles are present, alarms need to be heard, for maintenance personnel
  • Workers move between loud and quiet areas Sometimes, workers may also need hearing protection that can allow them to clearly communicate in noise. These Protective Communication Solutions can help when:
  • People are wearing hearing protection and carrying two-way radios
  • People are trying to talk on their mobile phone in noise

Industrial Hearing loss
Hearing Conservation Program

Employers in the U.S. are required to provide a “continuing, effective hearing conservation program” for employees who are exposed to hazardous noise, according to OSHA. You can advance your hearing conservation program with a customized and comprehensive approach to providing hearing protection. Implementing a solution that really makes a difference begins with an understanding of the hazards, the regulations, and the factors that impact hearing protection. Your program should also consider the six elements of hearing conservation.

Measure.

Accurate measurement of employee exposure to hazardous noise is essential. Conducting noise surveys using appropriate detection instruments can help you identify who is at risk, determine who needs to be included in your program, and select the proper controls and protective equipment to help reduce the risks.

Control.

Certain operations and machinery create high noise levels. But do they have to? Equipment and processes can be designed or altered to be quieter, reducing the number of employees in your conservation program.

Protect.

Hearing protectors play an important role in hearing conservation. They must be comfortable, fit properly, and provide adequate protection for the environment. Compatibility with other PPE and the workers’ ability to communicate must also be considered. Including individual fit testing of earplugs and earmuffs in your program can help you educate your employees on the importance of hearing protection and validate the Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) achieved by each worker.

Check.

Are your employees showing symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss? It’s important to routinely use standardized measurement procedures to check their hearing to detect and record changes, so you can take steps to prevent permanent hearing loss.

Train.

Because noise-induced hearing loss usually happens gradually and the symptoms are not always apparent, it is vital to educate employees on the effects of exposure to loud noise and train them to properly use hearing protection. You may be able to improve the success of your hearing loss prevention efforts by strengthening worker training and motivation programs.

Evaluate.

Make sure your hearing conservation program is working with regular program evaluations that include employee feedback, responsibility reviews, and cost analysis. This will help identify trends, highlight potential problem areas, and drive improvement.

Fit Testing

Fit testing can deliver an objective, quantitative measurement of each employee’s hearing protection, so you can help better protect your workforce while also helping employees understand the importance of proper fit. Fit testing can further help employers because it:

  • Is fast, quantitative, and objective
  • Helps measure the wearer’s personal attenuation rating (PAR) with particular hearing protectors
  • Allows for the opportunity for training to help promote effective fit and

Provides documentation for compliance reporting

A proper hearing conservation program is meant to help measure, control, protect, check, train, record, and evaluate.

Hearing Conservation Manager Digital Programs

It might be in a safety manager’s best interest to invest in a digital system, where hearing conservation managers can track for each worker the results of fit testing, the noise exposure levels experienced given a specific work environment and keep track of overall hearing health data over time. This data can help with selecting the appropriate hearing protection based on exposure in a particular work environment and keeping track of what hearing PPE inventory is needed for the work force.

Using a digital system to gather and store information on how PPE is used in the workplace can help promote regular maintenance for certain PPE assets, as well as help improve the hearing program, overall operations, and safety culture. This may lead to enhanced productivity, compliance, and confidence by workers who feel they are properly feel protected.

People like options. When their personal preferences are considered, employees may be more satisfied and more invested in their work. Employees may wear hearing protection more of the time when they are allowed to choose HPDs that are compatible with their work. Selecting the most comfortable HPD from several options may also increase the likelihood that employees will wear them correctly. Through a well-defined hearing conservation program, safety managers, employers, and hearing conservation managers can help ensure workers are wearing the hearing protection that meets their needs. 


Source:

https://ohsonline.com/articles/2019/09/01/hearing-protection-devices-and-solutions.aspx?admgarea=news

By Carly JohnstonSep 01, 2019


 

Mining, oil and gas workers at risk of hearing loss

September 11, 2019

Mining, oil and gas workers at risk of hearing loss Hearing loss is prevalent in workers in the mining and oil and gas extraction sectors, researchers have found. At least 25 percent of workers in many industries and as much as 30 percent of workers in others had hearing loss, according to a recently published report.

Approximately 61 percent of all workers in mining and oil and gas extraction have been exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job. Certain chemical exposures in the industries also pose hearing loss risks. “Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the Mining and Oil and Gas Extraction sectors, 2006-2015” appears in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Construction

New, specific findings In the mining sector, 24 percent of all noise-exposed workers had hearing loss. Workers in the construction sand and gravel mining industry had the highest prevalence of hearing loss at 36 percent, followed by:

  • 31 percent of noise-exposed workers in uranium-radium-vanadium ore mining;
  • 28 percent in bituminous coal and lignite surface mining;
  • 27 percent in iron ore mining; and
  • 24 percent in copper ore and nickel ore mining. Noise-exposed workers in coal mining support activities had double the risk of hearing loss compared with couriers and messengers, a low-prevalence comparison industry.

Noise-exposed workers in gold ore mining had a 71 percent higher risk of hearing loss than couriers and messengers. In the oil and gas extraction industry sector, researchers found that:

  • Overall, 14 percent of noise-exposed workers in the sector had hearing loss.
  • Within natural gas liquid extraction, 28 percent of noise-exposed workers had hearing loss and a 76 percent higher risk of hearing loss than couriers and messengers.

However, no data were available for two of the largest industries—crude petroleum and natural gas extraction and drilling oil and gas wells, indicating a need for more worker surveillance. The study is the first to examine hearing loss prevalence and risk by industry within the mining and oil and gas extraction sectors. Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Taft Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio, conducted the latest study.

Preventing occupational hearing loss Noise exposures not only can cause hearing loss, according to NIOSH, but also are associated with elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. NIOSH’s recommended exposure limit for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels. Noise levels are measured as an 8-hour, time-weighted average.

 

oil & gas

Steps employers can take to prevent occupational hearing loss include:

  • Removing or reducing noise at the source,
  • Implementing an effective hearing conservation program when noise cannot be reduced to safe levels,
  • Using engineering controls to reduce equipment noise,
  • Rotating workers out of loud areas and from noisy tasks to decrease their exposure time, and
  • Identifying and eliminating any barriers to the use of hearing protection devices.
  • Personal protective equipment for hearing protection includes ear canal caps; expandable foam ear plugs; premolded, reusable plugs; and earmuffs. Learn More about personal hearing protection. 

 


SOURCE

https://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-topics/employee-safety/noise-hearing-protection/

Why We Don’t Turn Down The Volume When The Music Gets Louder

August 27, 2019

In the 1984 film “This Is Spinal Tap”, Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) famously turns him amplifiers all the way up to eleven. His attitude to music is that the volume is a big part of the sound, and louder is better.

Unfortunately for Nigel, listening to loud music for a long time can cause irreparable hearing loss. The solution seems simple: Just turn the volume down a bit. In reality, it’s not so straightforward. Two recent studies show how different cultural and technical practices indirectly affect how loud the music is that we’re listening to.

Music is only getting louder?

First, music itself has been gradually getting louder. Researchers in Canada studied a large collection of songs from the past nine decades to see how much the sound intensity of the music itself has changed per decade. They found  that a track by one of today’s artists is intrinsically louder than eighties hits, regardless of whether you’ve turned up the volume to eleven.

This increase doesn’t have anything to do with a change in music style over the years, but with the way that the tracks are recorded and edited. According to the study, audio engineering has changed over time, and as a result there are now fewer “quiet spots” within tracks. That means that the overall sound intensity of current music is a bit higher than that of older music. So yes, music has gotten louder over the years.

But this alone does not mean that these tracks are more likely to cause hearing damage. That also depends on how the listener controls the volume on their end. Ideally, you should probably turn the sound down just a bit when you’re listening to a louder song. Whether you do that, though, again depends on a lot of factors, as another recent study showed.

An international group of researchers wondered how young adults from different countries thought about loud music. They surveyed people between the ages of 18 and 25 in cities in the USA, UK, Portugal, India and Iran and asked them what came to mind when they thought about the concepts of “music” or “loud music”.

There found a lot of similarities between the different countries. Most people had generally positive associations with music, and associated it with memories, friends or aspects of a good quality of life. But when it came to “loud music”, negative associations started to take over.

Hearing Problems association with Loud Music

Hearing problems was one of these negative connotations that people associated with loud music, but it came up more often in conversations with people from the UK, USA and Portugal than with the study participants in India or Iran. That doesn’t mean that people in those last two countries don’t know that loud music causes hearing loss – it just showed that it wasn’t the first thing on their mind when they thought about loud music.

Being aware of the link between loud music and hearing loss is in itself not enough to make the decision to protect your ears, but it’s a good start. An earlier study from researchers in Sweden and the USA found that young adults in Sweden were more likely to use ear plugs at a concert than Americans, even though both groups were aware of the dangers. They thought that in that case, the difference was that ear plugs had become more socially accepted in Sweden, thanks to a series of awareness campaigns. Not to mention that more and more musicians are seen wearing customized hearing protection (dB Blockers) to protect their hearing from loud piercing noises If everyone uses ear plugs, it’s less embarrassing to be wearing them.

music

So even if you already knew about the dangers of loud music, it’s worth repeating the message. And now that you also know that music is gradually getting inherently louder, maybe it’s time to turn the dial back down from eleven.


SOURCE

https://www.forbes.com/sites/evaamsen/2019/07/30/why-we-dont-turn-down-the-volume-when-the-music-gets-louder/#296d35e632e4

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.