Mining presents many risks to all involved, from the financial and investment level, down to the frontline worker in the mines. In the public's mind, the risk of a mining shaft cave-in far outweighs the risks to physical health over time. When health risks are discussed, it has commonly only been about diseases such as black lung disease. However, according to the CDC, "One out of every four mine workers has a hearing problem. Even worse, four out of five mine workers have a hearing impairment when they reach mid-60s retirement age" (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Furthermore, 76% of miners are exposed to hazardous noise daily, which is more than any other major industry.

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The steel industry is one of the largest global industries in the world, employing over 6 million people worldwide. It is also one of the louder industrial sectors, with the average noise exposure ranging between 85-92 dB(A) from various equipment including compressors, machine grinders, jets, and hammers. The noise generated by hot and cold rolling mills alone can reach up to 110 dB(A).

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According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the annual financial impact to employers due to worker's compensation cases for employee hearing loss on the job is estimated to be $242 million. In fact, hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. Approximately 22 million workers are exposed to harmful noises daily on the job. Data centers are particularly noisy places, with the average noise level reaching up to 92 dB(A) around server areas, and within the server racks, noise levels can reach up to 96 dB(A). In all cases where noise levels exceed 85 dB(A) for more than 8 hours, it is well documented the impact that insufficient hearing protection can have on employees’ long-term hearing quality.

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Every day, we hear sounds around us at work, at home, or in the car. Most of the time, these noises are harmless to our ears. However, sometimes we experience very loud noise which, even for a brief amount of exposure, can temporarily or permanently damage our inner ears. This damage is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and typically occurs in high-noise work environments where noise exceeds 85 dB(A). Occupational noise-induced hearing loss is also commonly referred to as industrial deafness.

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Hearing loss is a generic term that encompasses a wide range of issues and various degrees of disabilities. Typically, hearing loss can be a progressive process, often occurring subtly over time. If not taken seriously, hearing loss can leave uninformed workers in high-noise environments with permanent hearing impairments. Not only is this damaging for the worker, but this also affects the company or business owner greatly, as they can be held liable for the health and safety of their employees.

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Have you ever wondered what the loudest work environment is? According to a 2018 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries are among the most hazardous for high noise and hearing loss, with the forestry and logging industry as the most pervasive. Workers exposed to high noise in the forestry and logging industry have “a higher percentage of hearing loss (21%) than all other noise-exposed industries combined (19%)” (CDC, 2018).

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When it comes to hearing protection for loud workplaces, business owners want to save money and purchase the cheapest option available to them. This cheaper option often comes in the form of disposable earplugs, regardless of the environmental concerns that are often associated with them. They purchase these disposable earplugs because they seem to be the most cost-effective hearing protection solution, but what if they are wrong? What if we were to say that in the long run, disposable earplugs cost hundreds of dollars more than investing in more permanent forms of hearing protection? Not only would the alternative save business owners in monetary costs, but also in productivity, employee safety, and overall business success. Let me explain how.

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The best hearing protection devices (HPDs) are ones that employees want to wear and have all of the features necessary for employees to get the job done safely and efficiently. Another factor to consider is the fit and the actual hearing protection level that is achieved by the HPD on a particular person. What do you do when everyone has different-sized heads and not all hearing protection fits the same? What is the solution to having the right size headset with the right amount of hearing protection for each employee?

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Hearing loss is typically a gradual loss and is not identified until it noticeably affects people’s ability to hear/communicate and is, therefore, more prevalent than most people realize. Hearing loss can be caused by several factors including illness, age, and noise-induced hearing loss. Age and noise-induced hearing loss are the most common causes of hearing loss among adults.

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According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB(A) can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) to occur. Based on the study Hearing Loss Among Construction Workers: Updated Analyses, 58% of older construction workers now suffer from significant hearing loss, which was often a result of not taking the appropriate precautions while working in high-noise worksites. A study by Work Care found that employers pay $242 million a year in worker compensation for hearing loss, and these costs were higher in construction than in any other industry.

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