We Choose to Hear – And Listen: Part 2

We Choose to Hear – And Listen: Part 2


Once we understand the permanent life-changing impact of noise-induced hearing loss, what's next? 

Live the pledge, "I refuse to change my retirement plans because of bad work habits."  Commit yourself to actively protecting your hearing - and your ability to listen.

 How do I keep my hearing safe?

Start by knowing when your hearing is in danger. Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and hearing loss from noise is almost totally preventable!

What is hazardous noise?
Noise in general is “unwanted sound” but hazardous noise is at a level and duration that can damage our hearing. The easiest way to determine if noise is hazardous is the “arm’s length rule.” If you have to raise your voice to be heard over the noise by someone about arms-length away, the noise is potentially at a hazardous level. Very short exposures, a few minutes in passing, are no problem because the ear can recover from short moderate exposures. But when the hazard is present for a longer period of time, depending on the level, it can cause permanent hearing loss.

To be sure you conserve your hearing, you need to protect yourself whenever you are exposed to hazardous noise – at work and at home. There are several ways to protect yourself from hazardous noise.

The most obvious is to decrease the noise level. Sometimes that’s as easy as turning down the volume, but at other times you don’t have control over the noise level.  In those cases, the next step is to limit your exposure to the hazardous noise. That can be done by distancing yourself from the source of the noise. Every time you double the distance between you and the noise, the noise level is cut in half. And putting barriers between you and the noise source can decrease the noise level too. But again, sometimes you can’t do that.

Your next step is to protect yourself from the noise. That usually involves wearing earplugs or earmuffs, but can be as simple as covering your ears with your hands.

How do I conserve my hearing?
The best way to conserve your hearing is to use an appropriate hearing protector when you are exposed to hazardous noise! But which earplug or earmuff is the best is dependent on your ear canal shape, the noise level, the duration of noise exposure, the type of noise, the environment and other factors. For example, for noise exposures due to firearm use, you might want an electronic hearing protector that allows you to hear what’s around you but protects you from the intermittent sharp hazardous noise of the firearm. For very short exposures, you might want earmuffs or banded earplugs that are easy to take off and put on. For extended exposures, you need to find an earplug that is comfortable and blocks enough noise to protect you. If you need to communicate in the noise, you might need a communication earmuff or earplug. 

What else can I do?
Your hearing is a key sense and it is yours to protect. You have every right to maintain good hearing even if you work and play around hazardous noise. Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace and it’s up to each employee to ensure they work in a safe workplace.

Following most national and local regulations, employers are required to provide a “variety of suitable hearing protectors”[1] at no cost to their workers. They are also required to provide an annual audiogram to monitor hearing health and provide Hearing Conservation training to workers.

In fact, many employers encourage their workers to take earplugs home for protection from off-the-job exposures.

Encouraging people to wear hearing protection off the job as well as on makes sense for other reasons as well. One of the most difficult tasks safety managers face with regard to Hearing Conservation is convincing employees of the risk.

Talking about noise hazards present in everyday activities brings the Hearing Conservation message “home” in a very meaningful way. It gets everyone’s attention, helps make earplug use habitual, and more often than not, gets the neighbors attention as well.

Choose to hear [and listen]. Choose to maintain good hearing health. Choose to keep the enjoyment and value of good hearing – HearForever.


Download the poster, "I refuse to change my retirement plans because of bad work habits," from HearForever.org at http://www.hearforever.org/tools-to-educate/educate-i-refuse-to-let-change-my-retirement 

[1] OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95


Blog Author:  Renee Bessette  
Blog Catagories:  NIHL  

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