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Overprotecting Your Hearing

Use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) is an important tool in reducing exposure to noise. The NRR rating on these HPDs is an indicator of how much noise (measured in decibels) the employee’s exposure will be reduced.

Over protection is a factor that is often overlooked and can result in serious injury. If, while using HPDs the employee is unable to effectively communicate, hear critical warning signals, or is not able to ascertain whether equipment is operating properly; he/she may be wearing too much protection. Often, it is apparent that an employee is being over protected when you observe them removing HPDs in order to communicate or evaluate the proper operation of machinery.

For those employees that have experienced permanent hearing loss, the issue of over protection is even more critical. They may already have trouble hearing warning signals and this has the potential to become even more difficult when using HPDs. Nevertheless, those with diminished hearing need to be protected to preserve the hearing that they still have.

The final choice of the appropriate hearing protection device will depend on many factors: the noise level of the work environment, the frequency spectrum of the noise, the individual’s hearing, the need for communication, and the need to hear warning signals. Hands-on training including the use of HPDs, as well as demonstrating how the employee can identify over protection, is critical.

Additionally, there are some helpful hints that the employee can be taught when they have been provided the right level of protection, yet still tend to remove the HPDs to perform certain tasks. Instead of removing the HPD they should try reducing the distance between speaker and listener, using hand and or facial cues, speaking more forcefully and clearly, and encouraging employees to provide verbal and physical feedback to ensure that they understand what has been communicated to them. The final choices should be made with the help of a health and safety professional, audiologist, or qualified program administrator.

Read the full article by Moldex here

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