February 8, 2021

Hearing loss and associated issues are incredibly prevalent in the workplace, but the good news is that occupational hearing loss is preventable. Since knowledge is power, we hope that learning more about hearing protection can help you prevent injury.

Here are the frequently asked questions when it comes to hearing protection:

When is hearing protection required?

Hearing protection is required when employee noise exposures equal or exceed an eight-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels (dB) measured on the A scale or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent, as part of a hearing conservation program per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) CFR 1910.95.

Why is hearing protection important?

The short answer: hearing protection helps keep your hearing intact for the duration of your lifetime. Hearing protection is important to mitigate hearing loss and other serious health and social implications.

This is because unlike other workplace injuries, hearing damage happens over decades, gradually and silently – and failure to protect against or recognize damage from hazardous noise can cause life-long consequences. Read more about common hearing issues here.

What hearing protection is best?

The best hearing protection is the one that achieves the attenuation level you need while also fitting properly, being comfortable enough for all-day wear, and being compatible with any other PPE that you are using. Read more tips on how to choose your hearing protection here.

What are the standards dealing with hearing protection?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace based on a worker’s time-weighted average over an eight-hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an eight-hour day. OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.95 requires that a hearing conservation program be implemented when employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 dBA, which includes the use of hearing protectors.

Hearing protectors must be tested and approved by the American National Standards (ANSI) in accordance with OSHA and must be labeled with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) label per requirements put forth by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read more on OSHA hearing standards, here.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is an early sign of hearing damage that affects about 8% of the U.S. working population, with 4% having both hearing difficulty and tinnitus. This distressing condition is caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds and can become permanent. Though there is no effective cure, treatment is available for easing symptoms.

How many people are affected by occupational hearing loss?

Noise exposure is the second most common cause of acquired hearing loss (after aging), and an estimated 24% of hearing loss in the United States has been attributed to workplace exposures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What does attenuation mean?

Attenuation is the reduction in noise as a result of hearing protection being worn.

When is double hearing protection required?

Double hearing protection is required when the attenuation of a single hearing protection device is no longer enough to ensure the hearing protection of its wearer. Though double hearing protection is not stated as a requirement within OSHA rules and regulations, the advisory and research board backing OSHA recommends double hearing protection to those who work in environments equal to or exceeding 100 dBA.

Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that any worker whose 8-hour time-weighted average exposure exceeds 100 dBA should wear double hearing protection.

What are the acronyms associated with hearing protection measurements?

  • dB – A decibel (dB) is a term used to categorize the power or density of sound.
  • dBA or A-weighted – The A-weighted sound level discriminates against low frequencies, in a manner similar to the response of the ear. In this setting, the meter primarily measures in the 500 to 10,000 Hz range. It is the weighting scale most commonly used for OSHA and DEQ regulatory measurements.
  • dBC or C-weighted – The C-weighted sound level does not discriminate against low frequencies and measures uniformly over the frequency range of 30 to 10,000 Hz. This weighting scale is useful for monitoring sources such as engines, explosions, and machinery.
  • HPD – Hearing protection devices (HPD), such as earmuffs and earplugs, help control exposures to noise.
  • NIHL – Noise-induced hearing loss
  • NRR – Noise reduction rating; reported in decibels. This is a measure of the effectiveness of HPDs to reduce noise levels used in the American national standard.
  • PEL REL – The permissible exposure limit (PEL) and recommended exposure limit (REL) is the decibel level used before a hearing conservation is needed/recommended.
  • SNR – Single number rating; reported in decibels. This is a measure of the effectiveness of HPDs to reduce noise levels used in the European testing standard.
  • TWA – The time-weighted average (TWA) shows a worker's daily exposure to occupational noise (normalized to an 8-hour day), taking into account the average levels of noise and the time spent in each area. This is the parameter that is used by the OSHA Regulations and is essential in assessing a worker’s exposure and what action should be taken.

HexArmor® can help

For any further questions regarding hearing protection, let us know. Contact one of our Solutions Specialists today at 1.877.MY.ARMOR or visit www.hexarmor.com.