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.

When it comes to safety, nothing is common sense

May 8, 2019

Woman’s business helps companies stay OSHA compliant

by Joe Gamm

There is no such thing as common sense.

osha-safetyWhat is obvious to one person may not be obvious to another, according to Bethany Graves (Watson), a consultant specializing in occupational safety based out of Jefferson City. Graves specializes in helping companies conform to Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines. 

 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines

Graves recently presented a program to the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, in which she explained the agency’s requirements, including employer and employee responsibilities, record keeping, training, and written programs.

She explained some of OSHA’s standards and guidelines.
The organization has a lot of guidelines. It must, Graves said, if it is to keep workers safe from harm. Despite OSHA’s work, more than 4,500 U.S. workers die in work-related incidents in private industry every year. For calendar year 2017, there were 4,674 worker fatalities. Of those, 971 (one in five) were in construction. The leading cause of private-sector worker deaths in construction (excluding highway collisions) were falls, then “struck by an object,” electrocution and “caught in or between.”

According to the agency website, osha.gov, the top 10 most frequently cited standards violations in 2017 were lack of fall protection, failure to provide hazard communication, failure to meet scaffolding requirements, lack of adequate respiratory protection, lack of lockouts or other controls to prevent electrocution, improper use of ladders, violations of “powered industrial trucks” (or forklifts) regulations, lack of fall prevention training, failure to provide machine guards (to keep employees from moving parts), and eye or face protection.

On its website, the agency provides its guidelines for all industries in a 270-page document. Additional training information may be found elsewhere, according to the document.

The agency divides its safety guidelines into four categories, Graves said, general industry (which is generally made up of businesses that are static and do not fall into the other categories), agriculture, construction and maritime.

“Each industry has specific requirements,” said Graves, whose company, 365 Safety Services, does safety consulting for companies. “Some standards (within those industries) have even more requirements.” For example, within fall protection standards, there is what is called the “competent person,” who is responsible for the fall protection program and equipment and making sure everyone is using it properly.

The website also provides safety and training materials.

Graves helps businesses prepare for what happens if the agency does an inspection, tells them about how it works and explains businesses record-keeping requirements.

Safety Glasses

Basically, OSHA says employers must train their employees on everything — even how to put on safety glasses.

“If they’ve never done it before, you do,” she said. “The big thing is teaching employees the limitations of those glasses. When you’re grinding, you need to have a face shield on, too. So, it’s the limitations of the types of protective equipment.”

Hearing Protection

If someone has never hammered a nail into a board, and that’s their new job, they need to be trained how to do that, she said. In noisy work environments, where ear protection is necessary, an employer has to train the employees on how to install earplugs. in some cases, it is vital to hearing safety that proper wearing instructions of custom hearing prodBBlocker ducts also be applied. 

“You need to train them in where earplugs are required in the facility or on a construction job site, or on when the employee is using specific tools or equipment,” she said.

She suggested if employers aren’t certain if hearing protection is required that they go online and download a noise app for their phones. There is a variety of such apps on the App Store for prices ranging from $1-$20. If the app produces a reading over 90 decibels, the employer may need to do a noise level survey, which basically determines an average of the noise over eight hours.

Respiratory Protection

Respiratory protection is determined in a similar survey.

Proactive companies that have components of respiratory hazards have very particular requirements for respiratory tests. They require new employees to fill out an extensive medical questionnaire, receive a pulmonary function test and be examined by a physician.

“All industries might need it, including construction,” Graves said. “The smart companies have baseline hearing tests done upon hiring of a new employee. If they already have hearing loss — let’s say they like to four-wheel, shoot guns and listen to loud rock and roll — they may have already experienced some hearing loss. That’s on the record and not attributable to the company.”

Graves said she always recommends that companies, except for those with an office atmosphere, do hearing tests.

Inspections/Compliance and Consultations

OSHA has two sides — inspections/compliance and consultations. The consultation side will come into a facility for free and do a comprehensive assessment if requested. The organization will then write up a report and tell the company what it needs to improve on.

OSHA isn’t the scary organization many people make it out to be, Graves said.

“They’ve evolved a lot even since I’ve been involved in safety,” she said. “They used to focus on the compliance side. Now, they focus a lot on the company side of things. They want to provide consultations. They want you to train your employees. They provide online training. And they’ll come out and train as well.”

Inspection Process 

  1.  Companies should never know when OSHA is going to show up for an inspection. It is illegal for the agency to notify a company of an impending inspection. There are numerous reasons the agency may show up at a work site or company — if there were a fatality, if the agency received an employee complaint, if the business were the site of a serious injury where someone was overnight hospitalized, if there was an amputation or even because it’s part of the agency’s local emphasis. If OSHA sees a rise in certain kinds of work-related injuries, it may focus on a particular industry. “One year, they focused on funeral homes. Why would they focus on funeral homes?” Graves asked. “Formaldehyde. People were being exposed to formaldehyde.”
  2. Upon arrival at a site for an inspection, OSHA officials would begin by showing their credentials. They would then conduct an “opening conference” to tell the employer why they are there, such as one of the aforementioned causes.
  3. The third part of the visit is the inspection itself. “I’ve known companies that — on the inspection — (investigators) just said, ‘We want to see your OSHA logbook,’” Graves said. “They may just want to see your paperwork.” Or they may simply want to see one portion of a plant. On the other hand, inspectors can also observe from across the street for two days and then walk in, completely unannounced. “Maybe they just saw a job site that looked terrible — a guy working on a third-story roof with no fall protection,” Graves said. “That’s terrible. That’s what’s called ‘imminent danger.’ In that case, they probably wouldn’t sit across the street for two days. They would actually go up right then. “They don’t want anyone to die on the job.”
  4. The fourth step of an inspection is called the closing conference. It doesn’t happen at the time of the inspection. The inspector takes the data back to an area director, who determines which citation, if any, will be issued to a company and the fine associated with it.

bethany graves

About Bethany Graves – a consultant specializing in occupational safety 

Graves said that when she’s consulting with companies, she talks about safety not only within the workplace, but also at home. A person can just as easily receive a serious injury at home as they can at work, and that would prevent them from receiving a paycheck.

Young people coming into a construction company who have never used a hammer or saw before may just want a paycheck, Graves said. They don’t realize that what they do today is going to affect them for the rest of their lives, especially if they maim or seriously hurt themselves.

“I’m very passionate about safety. I always feel like no one should go to work and not come home,” she said. “What’s common sense to you is not common sense to me.

“One thing I hear from employers is, ‘It’s just common sense. He should know not to do that.’ I don’t believe anything is common sense.”


What is OSHA

OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

Hearing preservation should be part of music education

January 20, 2019

For several years ProtectEar has been outfitting stars and musicians with custom molded hearing protection.

From Oscar-winning actors to top box office stars and Grammy-winning musicians, those who value their hearing the most wear custom hearing protection by Custom Protect Ear. See Celebrities. 

In essence, all musicians should value their hearing and understand the long term ramifications of being exposed to high-frequency noise over long periods of time. Hearing Health and Preservation is an important part to Music Education.

blackstone2Music Noise Exposure

Studies suggest musicians are four times more likely than others to experience hearing loss due to their repeated exposure to loud, prolonged rehearsals and performances.

Dr. Greg Horton, an audiologist at Rochester Hearing and Speech Center, understands this from his own experience. He’s played drums and bass for various bands over the past twenty years. He remembers attending a Ramones concert when he was 17.

“My ears were ringing for a week afterward and I felt like I had cotton stuffed in my ears,” he said. “I saw other people at the show wearing earplugs and I thought, ‘Hey, that’s probably a good idea,’ but nobody told me that was what I should do.”
Horton stresses that education is a key component of hearing preservation. He encourages music educators, those who give lessons, teach in schools or organize music camps, to incorporate information about it in their curriculum.

db life sweet tones

For instance, musicians may reject the idea of wearing earplugs because they don’t want to hear a low-quality version of what they’re playing.  What they may not know is, there are earplugs specifically designed to filter music while maintaining the fidelity like the dB Life™ Sweet Tones Musicians Earpieces. ThedB Life™ Sweet Tones reduces all frequencies equally by 9 dB, 15 dB, 20 dB or 25 dB with corresponding Flat Attenuation Filters.

This hearing protection is designed for musicians who want to hear sound without distortion but with less volume. Also recommended for those with some hearing loss for use as hearing protection in the 20 dB style. Learn More 

“So, for example, my band…we’re a pretty loud band,” Horton explained. “At practice, I use the strongest filters – meaning they will attenuate, turn down, the most. And then, when I play live, I switch out my filters and I play for a shorter period of time and I like to hear a little bit more of the music but it still keeps me safe.”

Hearing Loss Prevention

It’s much easier to prevent hearing loss than it is to treat it, and Horton says it’s not just musicians who’ve been playing a long time who should be aware of this.

“Because we’re seeing that this generation of young adults is having far more incidents of hearing loss than the previous generations for the same age group,” he said, “and it’s all about recreational noise exposure, whether it’s going to concerts, going to clubs, and definitely from all the excessive earbud use.”

He suggests that musicians give their ears a rest once in a while and also recommends a baseline hearing evaluation and annual follow-ups with a licensed audiologist.“We’re an industry that’s not regulated,” Horton said. “We don’t have OSHA coming in saying, ‘Oh, you’re a drummer in a rock n’ roll band? You have to wear your hearing protection,’ so it’s really up to us to do it ourselves.”


SOURCE
Read Article

https://www.wxxinews.org/post/hearing-preservation-should-be-part-music-education

Study Finds 36% of Forestry Workers with Noisy Jobs Suffer Hearing Loss

April 17, 2018

Hearing loss affects many sectors and industries. We have explored Manufacturing Plants, Food Processing plants, Security, Mining, Construction and many others. In this study, hearing loss also has a major impact on Forestry Workers. We know that the hearing is impacted where loud noises occur for long periods of time. This is why Custom Protect Ear created the Smartest Hearing Protection in the World.

Only dB Blockers™ have proven results for effectively eliminating noise-induced hearing loss.  We participated in a study  with a company that obtains 90 plants and approximately 9,000 employees and found that after fitting with dB Blockers, used in conjunction with an effective hearing conservation program, noise-induced hearing loss was virtually eliminated. Learn More. 

About 15 percent of noise-exposed workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (AFFH) sector experience hearing loss, according to a new NIOSH hearing loss study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

While the 15 percent figure is below that found in other sectors, the prevalence of hearing loss is higher — as high as 36 percent— in particular industries including forestry within the AFFH sector.

Also, the prevalence of hearing loss in the AFFH sector has declined since the 1980s, however, it remains one of the industrial sectors with the highest risk for hearing loss.

While we found the overall prevalence of hearing loss in the AFFH sector to be less than all industries combined, which is 19 percent, our study shows there are many industries within the sector that have a large number of workers who have or are at high risk for hearing loss,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Workers in the high-risk industries identified in this study would benefit from continued hearing conservation efforts.”

 

In what they say is the first study to estimate hearing loss within the AFFH industry sector, NIOSH researchers identified the AFFH industries with the highest number of noise-exposed workers who have hearing loss and an elevated risk of hearing loss:

  • Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products (36%), which entails growing trees for reforestation or gathering barks, gums, fibers, etc. from trees;
  • Timber Tract Opera ons (22%), which entails harvesting standing trees to make timber; and
  • Fishing (19%), this study sample comprised workers fishing for finfish such as tuna, salmon, trout, etc.

Additionally, researchers found workers in the aquaculture (fish farms or hatcheries) and logging industries are at higher risk for hearing loss. “Hazardous noise affects an es mated 22 million workers in the U.S. and hearing loss from this workplace exposure is entirely preventable with the right strategies and techniques such as controlling noise to safe levels, protec ng employees through the use of personal protective equipment and monitoring workers for changes in their hearing levels,” said Dr. Masterson.

For the study, researchers examined the results of 17,299 hearing tests, or audiograms, from workers employed at 458 companies in the AFFH sector.


SOURCE:

www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2018/04/03/485131.htm

I CAN’T HEAR YOU! over all that noise…

May 11, 2017

DOES ANYONE LIKE LOUD NOISES?

Loud noise at work can damage people’s hearing and lead to safety risks.

What harm can noise cause?

Hearing harmful noise at work can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage. Hearing loss can be gradual due to exposure to noise over time, but may also be caused by sudden, extremely loud noises. Hearing loss damage is disabling as it can prevent people from comprehending speech, keeping up with conversations or even using the telephone. Hearing loss is not the only problem that may occur. People may develop tinnitus (a ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears) which is a distressing condition that can result in disturbed sleep. Noise can create safety issues at work interfering with communications and making warnings harder to hear. It can also reduce people’s awareness of their surroundings.

Noise issues can compromise safety – putting people at risk of injury or death.

Health and Safety – Noise at WorkWork in noise

Depending on the level of risk, companies should: take action to reduce noise exposure; and provide employees with personal hearing protection. Other duties under the Regulations include the need to: make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded; maintain and ensure the use of equipment in place to control noise risks; provide employees with information, instruction, and training; and carry out health surveillance (monitor workers’ hearing ability). The Regulations apply where work activities expose people at work (your employees or other workers affected by your work activities) to risks to their health and safety from noise.

A company must ask itself,

Is there a noise problem in the workplace? Something must be done about the noise if any of the following conditions apply:

  • the noise is intrusive – for example, as noisy as a busy road, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – or worse than intrusive, for most of the working day
  • employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day
  • employees use noisy powered tools or machinery for more than half an hour each day
  • your industry is known to have noisy tasks, e.g. construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries; waste and recycling; noises due to impacts (such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc.), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns.

Situations, where you will need to consider safety issues in relation to noise, include where you use warning sounds to avoid or alert to dangerous situations; where working practices rely on verbal communications; and where there is work around mobile machinery or traffic.

As an employer you have identified NOISE AT WORK, you should carry out an assessment to decide what action is needed, and develop a HEARING LOSS PREVENTION PLAN.

A risk assessment means more than just taking measurements of noise – measurements may not even be necessary.

A risk assessment should identify where there may be a risk of noise and who is likely to be affected.  The assessment should include:  identifying any risks to health; any risks to safety; contain an estimate of an employee’s exposure to noise (see ‘Noise exposure levels’); identify what needs to be done to comply with the law.  You should determine whether noise-control measures and/or personal hearing protection are needed; or whether working practices are safe, and identify any employees who need to be provided with health surveillance and whether any are at particular risk. You must record the findings of your risk assessment. You must also record the action you have taken, or intend to take, to comply with the law. You should review your risk assessment if circumstances change or if it is no longer valid. For example: if the work changes and this affects workers’ noise exposure, or there are changes to the availability, applicability of noise-control measures, then a review is necessary. You should conduct a review often – never leaving it longer than two years between reviews.

Hearing Protection Devices; dB Blockers™dB Blockers

Wherever or whenever there is noise at work, you should be always looking out for better protection against noise such as better hearing protection devices, equipment and/or working methods which would reduce the noise or ensuring people are exposed for shorter periods of time.

The good news is that if you have identified noise is an issue, there are ample product solutions that can fit and reduce your noise problems. Ask about dB Blocker™ personalized hearing protection products.  dB Blockers™ are hearing protection products made to fit an individual’s ear exactly, giving the wearer a custom hearing protector (earplug) that can be worn all day long, while receiving “REAL WORLD” (what the wearer actually receives) attenuation.

Take control of the noise, before it controls your workplace!

As an employer, it is vital to your role to keep up with what is good practice or the standard for noise-control within your industry, (e.g. through your regulating bodies, your trade association, or machinery and equipment suppliers). Where your employees are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action values, you must take action to reduce noise exposure with a planned program of noise control. Even where noise exposures are below upper exposure action values, you should take action to reduce the risks and find appropriate hearing protection devices, thereby reducing exposure further. Any action you take should be ‘reasonably practicable’ – in proportion to the level of risk. If exposure is below lower action values, the risk is low and it is likely no action is required; you should continue to practice diligence and consider taking action if there are simple, inexpensive practical steps that would further reduce risk.