Hearing Protection Reducing Sound Energy to Inner Ear
Hearing protection is designed to reduce the level of sound energy reaching the inner ear. The "rule of thumb" for hearing protection is to use hearing protection when you can't carry on a conversation at a normal volume of voice when you are 3 feet apart.
Any sound over 80 dba requires hearing protection. See Noise Exposure Limits. Hearing loss can be very gradual, usually happening over a number of years. Workers should have their hearing tested at least every year, twice a year if they work in a high noise area.
Types of Sound Protection
It is important to have different styles of hearing protection available. Different styles allow a better chance of a good fit. Each person's head, ear shape and size is different. One style may not fit every person on your crew. If hearing PPE does not fit properly or is painful to use, the person will likely not use it. If the hearing protection is not properly fitted, it will not supply the level of protection it was designed to deliver.
The most common types of hearing protection in the construction industry are earplugs and earmuffs. Most earplugs, if properly fitted, generally reduce noise to the point where it is comfortable (takes the sharp edge off the noise). If you choose to use the other types of hearing protection, ask your safety supplier or RSS office for further information.
If your hearing protection does not take the sharp edge off the noise, or if workers have ringing, pain, headaches or discomfort in the ears, your operation requires the advice of an expert.