Hear This!

The surest way to protect workers from harm is to eliminate the hazard at the
source. This isn't always possible, however, particularly where the hazard is
noise. In workplaces where the sound levels exceed 85 decibels, workers are at
risk of hearing loss.

Choosing personal protective devices for workers is an important part of a
complete workplace hearing protection program. To find the best kind of hearing
protector, ask yourself two important questions: Will it protect and will they
wear it?

Manufacturers offer a variety of earplugs, semi-insert earplugs and ear muffs,
all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.

Ear plugs may or may not be individually molded to fit the ear. Some are
reusable, others disposable. Earplugs are easy to use, more comfortable than
ear muffs in hot or damp environments, and less expensive. To provide the
necessary protection, however, they must be properly inserted. They offer less
protection than some ear muffs and are not suitable in areas with noise levels
over 105 db(A) (A-weighted decibels).

Ear muffs vary by material, depth of the dome, and force of the headband. The
deeper and heavier the dome, the greater the low-frequency attenuation provided
by the protector. There should be a proper seal over the ear, but not too tight
for comfort. In many cases, ear muffs provide greater protection than plugs.
They are easier to fit, tend to last longer, and have replaceable parts. On the
other hand, ear muffs cost more than plugs and are less comfortable, especially
in hot work areas.

Other points to keep in mind...

  • If the noise is intermittent, ear muffs might be a better choice. It's
    inconvenient to keep removing and reinserting earplugs.

  • A radio headset is no substitute for hearing protection! However, it is
    important that the hearing protection not prevent effective communication
    important for safety reasons (E.g., Verbal warnings to evacuate, backup alarms
    on moving equipment.)

  • In areas where noise levels are very high, a worker may wear both ear plugs
    and ear muffs together for better protection.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety