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industrial-hygiene
industrial-hygiene
FOUNDATIONAL LEARNING
Personal protective equipment: Hearing protection
  • When engineering and administrative or work practice controls aren’t enough, employers will need to provide employees with hearing protectors.
  • Hearing protectors are usually in the form of either ear plugs or earmuffs.

When workplace noise equals or exceeds 85 decibels, averaged over an eight-hour period, can’t be reduced through engineering, administrative, or work practice controls, employees must be provided with hearing protection at no cost to them. Employees who receive hearing protectors must have the opportunity to select from a variety of types that are compatible with their work tasks. Employees must also be properly fitted and trained to use and care for their hearing protectors.

There are two types of hearing protectors: ear plugs and earmuffs. Both types reduce the pressure of sound that reaches the eardrum and are the next line of defense when noise levels can’t be reduced to safe levels with engineering or administrative controls.

  • Expandable foam plugs are made of a formable material designed to expand and conform to the shape of each person’s ear canal. The user rolls the expandable plugs into a thin, crease-free cylinder before inserting into the ear. The plug should be rolled into a smooth tube thin enough so that about half the length will fit easily into the ear canal. Some individuals, especially women with small ear canals, have difficulty rolling typical plugs small enough to make them fit. A few manufacturers now offer a small size expandable plug.
  • Pre-molded, reusable plugs are made from silicone, plastic or rubber and are manufactured as either one-size-fits-most or are available in several sizes. Many pre-molded plugs are available in sizes for small, medium or large ear canals.
  • Canal caps often resemble earplugs on a flexible plastic or metal band. The earplug tips of a canal cap may be a formable or pre-molded material. Some have headbands that can be worn over the head, behind the neck or under the chin. Newer models have jointed bands increasing the ability to properly seal the earplug.
  • Earmuffs come in many models designed to fit most people. They work to block out noise by completely covering the outer ear. Muffs can be “low profile” with small ear cups, or large to hold extra materials for use in extreme noise. Some muffs also include electronic components to help users communicate or to block impulsive noises.