One very important piece of PPE that is often overlooked is earplugs. Earplugs are a must within many industrial work environments and can often be found in various locations throughout the work facility. It is important to note that while certain noise levels in one area of a facility may be low, the noise levels in another area may be so loud that even entering the area without hearing protection may result in immediate hearing damage.
What Causes Hearing Damage?
There are many different noises that may contribute to hearing damage. Everything from simply listening to music too loudly to the intense sounds of an industrial workplace may lead to hearing damage or loss. There are basically two main types of hearing damage, one is caused by long term and continuous exposure to loud noises, this type of hearing loss could happen if a person was exposed to loud continuous noises each day and did not utilize ear plugs. The other type of hearing damage is often caused by a singular event causing an extremely loud noise such as an explosion. However, it doesn’t matter so much about the source causing the hearing damage; the main thing to keep in mind is that once hearing has been actually damaged it is usually unable to be repaired. The magic number to keep in mind regarding hearing damage is 85. Once noise levels reach 85 decibels, any prolonged or extended exposure can cause damage. In order to understand what 85 decibels sounds like, consider these common sounds and their average decibel levels:
- Whisper voice – 30 Decibels
- Normal talking conversation – 50-60 Decibels
- Average Dishwasher – 75 Decibels
- Lawn Mower – 85 Decibels
- Snowmobile – 100 Decibels
- Rock Concert – 115 – 140 Decibels
- Shot Gun Fire – 130 Decibels
Proper Earplug Usage at Work
One good thing about hearing loss is that it can almost always be preventable. However, if you work in an industrial setting where loud noises are just a part of the job, the use of ear plugs is critical. Nevertheless, I must point out that CORRECT ear plug use is critical. Many times people just quickly push the ear plugs into their ears and head off into the factory. This is a mistake. An improperly placed ear plug can actually let in an added 30 decibels of noise. This is a huge number, especially when it only takes 85 decibels to start causing damage. One of the best defenses against ill-fitting ear plugs is training. Employees need to be shown how to properly use and place ear plugs within the ear. There are hundreds of different types and styles of ear plugs on the market and each one comes with its own placement guidelines for the utmost protection. For instance, some ear plugs need to be squeezed and twisted and pushed into the ear and held in place until it expands to fill the ear canal. While another type of ear plug may simply just need to be pushed straight into the ear to block the opening.
Don’t risk your ability to hear clearly. If you work around loud noises, ear plugs should be an automatic piece of PPE that is used each and every time you enter the industrial work setting.
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