In all of my years as a safety professional, Hearing Protection has been in the top violations since I started. I don’t think there is enough emphasis spent on hearing protection. This is why I chose this topic to kick off the 5 senses series.

Noise induced hearing loss is unlike other injuries. In most cases there is no visible evidence of any harm being done. Normally it is non-traumatic and the majority of workers don’t even know they are causing any harm to themselves. In most cases the results of the damage are not realized until years later. Hearing loss is irreversible and becomes more of an issue as the body ages. Even with today’s technology, the only way to restore part of your hearing is with a properly fitted hearing aid.

With the proper training and education, hearing loss is 100% preventable. Yes, you heard that right! (no pun intended) So, if we take that statement and add that it’s irreversible, it is shocking to me that workers still refuse to protect themselves.

Below is a great poster to use to show how much noise is given off from different objects.


Now that we know how much sound is given off, lets discuss what those numbers mean. First, sound travels in waves and is most commonly measured using decibels or dB. Second, 85dB is the cut off for wearing hearing protection. Ways we can protect our hearing is by using ear plugs or ear muffs. These devices are given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) and they range from 0 – 33dB. what that means is that you can expect to lower the external sounds by the NRR. With so many designs of the ear plugs and muffs, there is a style out there that can offer you the best protection.

Normally single hearing protection is enough to protect us, but what do we do if the noise is extremely loud? That’s when we should wear dual hearing protection. An example of dual hearing protection would be the worker wearing ear plugs and also wearing the ear muff style. The interesting fact is that OSHA only requires dual hearing protection in mining industries and does not regulate it in the general or construction industries. A general rule of thumb is that a worker should wear dual hearing protection when the sound levels are over 108 dB.

Another point is the way you actually wear the hearing protection devices. Poorly worn or improper fitting hearing protection does little or no good. read the directions on the package to ensure the workers are wearing them properly. During my inspections, poorly worn hearing protection is a big issue.

Remember that when dealing with protecting people from noise, there are 3 things to focus on:

  1. Sound Level
  2. Frequency
  3. Time

I’m not going to get into in this topic, if you would like more information, feel free to email me at thesafetyandriskspotlight@gmail.com

As safety professionals, we should be stepping up and keep our workers thinking about themselves and the future. Hearing is not something you want to live with out.

Stay safe out there,


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