Of all workplace environments studies show that manufacturing workers suffer the highest level of hearing loss and hearing damage. The second highest is mining which was followed by construction.
Unlike other work environments, manufacturing environments typically expose workers to continuously loud noise throughout their entire work shift. No matter the type of manufacturing most equipment operates at 100 Db or louder which any level of exposure will cause hearing loss over time. Most employers do require and supply some form of hearing protection but each has their own pros and cons as highlighted below.
Anything over 75 DB can cause hearing loss, below is a list of the common volumes of manufacturing environments:
According to Safety & Health:
Occupational hearing loss is a permanent but entirely preventable condition with today’s hearing loss prevention strategies and technology,” the authors said in the report. “Concurrent with prevention efforts, early detection of hearing loss by consistent annual audiometric testing, and intervention to preclude further loss are critical.”
The study was published in the April 22 edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Most manufacturing facilities do require some sort of hearing protection but each has their own issues. Ear Muff style hearing protection get warm and heavy and are known to cause headaches and Foam Ear Plugs aren’t always adequate in preventing all frequencies in getting through. The other issue is the ability to communicate effectively with either style of hearing protection which usually requires the removal and short time exposure to sound and usually shouting to communicate in a loud environment. Even short bursts of exposure to loud sound can cause hearing loss over time.
The other issue is that a quarter of workers don’t wear hearing protection or earplugs at all.
Noise Exposure and Hearing Protection
Earmuffs have a few pros and cons. They can protect hearing decently even with very loud manufacturing equipment. However, they are heavy on the head and can push rather hard against the head which can cause headaches. In manufacturing and industrial environments it can be quite hot and ear muffs add to that head and become uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. The more they aggravate workers the less likely employees are to wear them. In addition to this, to communicate, a worker will remove them or remove one ear exposing them to damaging volumes of noise for that period of time which can be enough over the course of a day to cause hearing damage.
Foam earplugs the obvious pros that they are inexpensive, light to carry around and wear and great in all weather. The downsides are they aren’t particularly effective especially with louder equipment found in industrial environments and manufacturing equipment. Enough noise can get through to still cause hearing loss or damage. You can communicate better but do typically have to yell or speak loudly to be heard without having to remove them.
New to the market there are now electronic earplugs that use noise canceling technology that blocks all levels of damaging noise but offers one amazing feature which is the ability to still hear speech without having to remove the earplugs. Ears are significantly more protected with this technology and they are light, comfortable and more likely to be worn. They come with a variety of ear tips that allow them to adjust well to everyone. The only downside is that they do need to be charged and are more expensive than other earplugs but your hearing is definitely worth it!
The answer to all these issues is an Active Noise Cancelling Earplug like QuietOn Earplugs. They are electronic earplugs which use active noise canceling technology to remove all dangerous noise and amazing allows the frequency of speech to be heard. Let’s say that again, it allows speech to be heard, without the removal of the earplug! Therefore, at no time are you exposed to dangerous levels of noise.
They are lightweight, comfortable and offer 50 hours of battery time.
The average foam earplug cost is $50 for about 200 good quality earplugs. On average a worker works 210 days or more per year so your cost is $50 for just less than a year, QuietOn Active Noise Cancelling Earplugs will cost you $299 but should also last you more than 2 years. So if we assume at least 2 years life your cost is only $150 more than what foam earplugs would have cost you over the 2 years.