Since 2004, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in manufacturing. In 2009 alone, BLS reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases. (OSHA)
When workers are exposed to high levels of noise for extended periods of time, it may result in permanent hearing loss. Once this damage has been done, neither surgery nor a hearing aid can rectify the injury. The following is an example of OSHA regulations on acceptable noise level exposure for workers.
OSHA allows 8 hours of exposure to 90 dBA but only 2 hours of exposure to 100 dBA sound levels. National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) would recommend limiting the 8 hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 dBA, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.
Even short term exposure to loud noise can cause a temporary change in hearing or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). Most individuals have experienced this at concerts or even when using a lawn mower. These problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area, however, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Imagine working in a loud environment where you are exposed to high noise levels 8 hours a day repeating this exposure for weeks, months, and even years.
Not only can loud noise affect your hearing, but it can also lead to physical and psychological stress. This may have a negative impact on productivity and communication and may be a contributor to work accidents. Hearing loss also has a profound impact on individuals’ personal lives. Not being able to hear sounds that we take for granted such as your family and friends, traffic or television can lead to isolation and depression.
To protect workers, OSHA has implemented a Hearing Conservation program designed to protect workers with significant occupational noise exposures from hearing impairment. The 3M brand employs Hearing Conservation Specialists and has been dedicated in helping employers in understanding and meeting their hearing conservation requirements. 3M has been providing hearing conservation solutions for noisy environments for years. In collaboration with 3M, Motorola Solutions is now offering a full portfolio of Heavy Duty Headsets. These headsets are optimized and certified to meet Motorola’s performance standards for APX and MOTOTRBO™ two-way radios.
These Protective Communication Products provide hearing protection for noise levels above 82dB while allowing users to hear their surrounding environment, and communicate thus increasing their overall safety and productivity. This portfolio is ideal for manufacturing, public safety, public works, utility workers and many other high noise environments where two-way radio communication is also required. We are helping to protect employees’ hearing so they can live a full and productive life well into their retirement and so employers can benefit greatly by significantly reducing their liabilities for work related injuries.
By Nick Candotti, Director of Global Accessory & Energy Business, Motorola Solutions