Personal Protective Equipment - Hearing Protection

Most of us go through life taking our senses for granted. Like touching, tasting, smelling, and seeing, hearing is something we do automatically. But when something goes wrong with any of our senses, we expect that it can be fixed through medical science. Unfortunately, medicine offers only moderate improvement for people with hearing loos. Hearing loss cannot be restored for most people. Exposure to constant loud noises on a construction site can lead to hearing problems if certain precautions are not taken. We need to take a serious look at precautions we can take to prevent hearing loss.

Recognizing Hazardous Noise

Permanent hearing loss (nerve damage) can occur when the ear is exposed to 85 decibels (dB) or higher averaged over an 8 hour work day.

  • If workers standing only a few feet apart have to shout or raise their voices to be heard, noise levels are likely above 85 dB.
  • Symptoms of noise induced hearing loss can include ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and difficulty understanding conversation (sound distortion).
  • Hearing loss is usually painless and the symptoms can be hard to identify and may go unnoticed.
  • Noise that causes pain in the ear is an indication that the noise level is too high.
  • Any exposure to the ear at 140dB or higher can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the primary sources of noise in your work area?
  • What actions can be taken to reduce the level of noise in your work area?
  • If you’re required to wear ear protection, does it fit properly and is it effective?

Some Signs that you should be wearing hearing protection include:

  • If you have to raise your voice for someone 3 feet away to hear you, the site is too noisy and you need hearing protection. You need hearing protection also if you’re operating on or near noisy equipment.
  • If you have a roaring or ringing noises in your ears at the end of the workday, you are probably being exposed to too much noise.
  • If speech or music sounds muffled to you after you leave work, but it sounds fairly clear in the morning when you return to work, you are being exposed to noise levels that are causing a temporary hearing loss. In time, this can become permanent if you do not take care.

Types of Hearing Protection:

  • Earplugs: These are soft foam shapes that are moldable to your ear. They can cut noise levels up to 30 decibels. They are comfortable and disposable. Plugs must be inserted properly!
  • Earmuffs: These usually look like large headphones, completely covering the ear. They help protect you against moderate to high noise levels. They reduce noise levels by 15 to 25 decibels. They are less effective when using eyewear

Roll-Pull-Hold Earplug Technique:

How to use Earplugs

Safety Starts with You!!!!!