Since its creation by a group of engineers at Ericsson in 1994, Bluetooth technology has advanced significantly and been used in a myriad of communications devices. You might be using Bluetooth to connect your cell phone to an ear piece or to your car; you might use it to connect a mouse to laptop or to a tablet; or you might even be using it to monitor your sleep patterns using a Bluetooth enabled device.

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What are Noise Suppression and Noise Cancellation?

Where occupational hazards or other high-noise-level conditions exist, it becomes important for workers and others in the immediate vicinity to take appropriate steps to protect their hearing. In many cases, this includes the wearing of headset or ear-muff hearing protection devices (HPDs). Many of these devices have historically reduced the noise reaching the ear by means of noise-cancelling technology. In the past, this consisted of an ear-muff-style headset, which cupped closely around the ear, basically reducing noise levels through their insulation and tight fit construction.

As technology addressed the issue of hearing protection, active noise-cancelling was developed, which provided a more effective solution. This analog technology functions by detecting the sound coming into the headset, and generating signals that are out-of-phase with the offending signals, cancelling them out. This allows any sounds generated within the headset to be understood more clearly (music, radio communications, etc.). Unfortunately, these very noise-cancelling attributes also isolate the wearer from sounds that would make them aware of hazardous conditions in their surroundings. With SENS technology (speech enhancement noise suppression), the wearer is provided with effective protection, without isolation from their surroundings.

Today, major advances have been made in the area of noise suppression, as opposed to the older noise cancellation technology. These improvements provide for more effective communication and situational awareness while still protecting the wearer’s hearing. Modern headsets can be integrated with two-way radio, Bluetooth-enabled devices, and headset-to-headset communication abilities.

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Why Do You Need Hearing Protection?

Employers share their workers’ concerns for personal safety and well-being. To provide for a safe workplace environment, it is critical that effective personal protective equipment (PPE) be utilized in anywork areas subject to potential hazards. This equipment may include requirements for steel-toed shoes, hard hats, high-visibility clothing, safety glasses, and hearing protection. Most of these hazards and PPEs have visible, comprehensive purposes: working with heavy objects in an industrial environment makes steel-toed shoes seem like common sense, as an example.

Hearing protection is a little less cut and dried, however. Even where noise levels may seem excessive, how do workers know when they may actually be dangerous to their health and quality of life? Identifying environmental hazards and addressing them continuously requires a comprehensive hearing conservation program. Such a program includes measuring and on going monitoring of noise levels in each area, selection of appropriate hearing protection devices (HPDs), worker training, and periodic reevaluation to ensure the effectiveness of each solution.

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Hearing Protection

Is There Such Thing as Overprotection of Your Hearing?

You can’t have too much of a good thing, including protection of your hearing, right? A recent article suggested that employers need to be concerned with over-protection of hearing on work sites. While the point is well taken that older ear plug and ear muff protection devices may impede the workers’ safety, this viewpoint is no longer applicable with today’s technological advances in hearing protection devices (HPDs). In the past, the onus was simply on a reduction in noise levels, providing basic hearing protection for workers in harsh, noisy environments. This had distinct disadvantages, when compared to the options available with today’s headsets. Employers’ moral, ethical, and legal obligations to provide a workplace environment that is conducive to the health and safety of their workers, requires constant reevaluation of available solutions. In those conditions where noise levels exceed published guidelines for worker safety, HPDs are required to reduce extreme decibel (dBA) levels that reach workers' ears, protecting them from short-term ill effects, or even permanent damage or disability.

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Ear Muff, Or Headset?

Ear muffs, in their simplest form, have been used for many years. In the past, they were deemed effective in providing hearing protection in high noise environments. But standard ear muffs were designed to limit the volume of ALL sound, which may include important alerts or warning shouts, actually endangering the wearer. Today’s headsets take hearing protection to a much higher level, providing protection, while improving communication capability, and allowing increased awareness of the workplace environment.  

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How Can My Hearing Protection Program be Outdated?

If you’ve made the investment in Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs) for your workplace, it has already been determined that you have a requirement or safety factor issue necessitating this equipment for your outdated-hearing-protectionparticular environment. Selection of the correct HPDs for your workers involves evaluation of noise levels, applicable regulations (at federal, state, and local jurisdictions), communications requirements, and finally consideration of available products that meet those needs.

Once you weigh each of these elements, you make a purchase, train workers in their proper use, and that’s all there is to it, right? Workers are protected, you’ve met your safety and legal commitments, and you can move on to other issues?

Well, not exactly.

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