Custom Ear Protection
Only Custom Ear Protection Can Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss EffectivelyAnyone who has attended a live rock concert or even stood in the lobby of a typical night club venue is likely to have found it near impossible to hold a conversation. Sadly, however, exposure to sounds at this sort of level is likely to prove far more than an inconvenient barrier to verbal interaction with others. It is almost certain that on at least one occasion such as this, the sound of the music was so loud that it caused you physical pain. However, there is seldom pain without some underlying damage, and so the probability is that, in the absence of custom ear protection, you would have experienced some degree of damage to certain specialised sensory cells located in the innermost regions of your ears. Of course, it is not just music but any noise that, if sufficiently loud and sustained for long enough, can lead to these cells becoming damaged. Unfortunately, they are essential for the conversion of mechanical waveforms into the nerve impulses that are conveyed to the auditory cortices in the brain where they are interpreted as sounds. Where the damage is severe, it cannot be repaired and, as the body is unable to produce replacement cells, the result is some degree of permanent auditory impairment that could have been prevented with the use of suitable custom ear protection. The condition, which is known as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL, now accounts for the vast majority of industrial injuries and, of course, the associated claims for compensation payments from employers. Clearly, it is as much in the interest of the employer as it is of a company’s employees to ensure that effective preventative measures are in place wherever the levels of ambient noise in the workplace indicate that there is a risk of NIHL. In fact, such measures are mandated in the terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and employers who fail to comply with these requirements could face steep fines. Not all employers, however, appreciate the importance of using custom hearing protection but, instead, choose to rely upon ear defenders or earplugs purchased over the counter with which to protect their workers’ hearing. Their choices tend to lack two important properties that can actually make them a markedly less effective solution than when opting for a more personalised product. In practice, however, providing a physical barrier against potentially damaging levels of noise is only a partial solution and it should ideally just be one component of a more comprehensive programme to address the overall management of hearing conservation. In addition to the sole use of proven custom hearing protection, such a programme will also need to address a number of other relevant issues. It should include elements dedicated to risk assessment and worker education, as well as ongoing monitoring and reporting activities, in order to ensure that the preventative measures in place are sufficiently effective and that they will continue to be so. The starting point of this type of programme is the risk assessment in which all of the danger areas within the workplace are identified prior to making impressions of the left and right ear canals of each worker at risk, in order to create the moulds from which custom hearing protection for each worker, in the form of perfectly-fitting earplugs, can then be prepared. Experience has shown that to ensure that a company’s employees make full use of these protective devices, it is important to educate them regarding the mechanism responsible for and the consequences arising from noise-induced hearing loss, and how the snug fitting earplugs are their sole defence against permanent auditory impairment. At the time of implementation, each worker is required to undergo an audiogram, which will then act as a baseline to be used in later comparisons and designed to confirm the effectiveness of the measures in place and identify anyone who may not be using the custom hearing protection provided to the extent required. With a pair of tight-fitting conventional earplugs, it is often only possible to hear the instructions of a supervisor by removing them, thereby re-exposing one to risk. For this reason, it is necessary to employ earplugs that are fitted with an adjustable attenuator, thus enabling the wearer to hear normal speech while providing the promised custom hearing protection from the cumulative effect of long-term exposure to louder noises. For more details of a fully-comprehensive hearing conservation programme, chat to H.A.S.S. Industrial.
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