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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Industry leaders in every field value the importance of safety for employees and managers. This emphasis on safety is even more important in fields that include extremely high levels of occupational noise exposure, such as mining or oil and gas. However, in these extremely loud environments, traditional methods of hearing protection just don't provide enough noise reduction. That's where double hearing protection (DHP) comes in. 

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Loud-noise exposure can have a wide range of detrimental effects in your workplace. These loud noises can have long-term consequences such as speech interference, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and even different levels of hearing loss.

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As mentioned in our overview blog of noise-induced hearing loss, sometimes we experience very loud noise which, even for a brief amount of exposure, can temporarily or permanently damage our inner ears causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). There are often misconceptions about NIHL, but we will debunk these myths. 

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When working in an industrial environment, there is no such thing as being gentle with your hearing protection headset. They get dirty, dusty, grimy, and banged up for 8-12 hours or more a day. The ear cushions may get cracked, warped, or just plain dirty. Whatever the reason, these headsets often get replaced due to damage or lack of upkeep. So, how can you extend the life of your hearing protection headset?

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When working in hazardous or high-noise-level conditions, it is important to have the right hearing protection. In many cases, this indicates wearing a headset or earmuff hearing protection device (HPD) with active noise-canceling technology. This analog technology functions by detecting the sound coming into the headset generates signals that are out-of-phase with the offending signals and then cancels them out. This allows any sounds generated within the headset to be understood more clearly (music, radio communications, etc.). Unfortunately, these active noise-canceling headsets have attributes that are problematic.

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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 conservation programs are typically designed to protect workers with normal hearing, but they must also consider those workers that have already been impacted by hearing loss or impairment. Many workers in high-noise environments have already experienced varying degrees of hearing loss and may have special needs. What can be done to keep them protected, but still allow them to continue with their daily activities? These workers face numerous challenges, even in quiet environments, including difficulty communicating with colleagues and problems differentiating important sounds or alarms from other background noises. Some workers may even face differing levels of tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

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