It’s been over a year and a half now since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while we have made it through much turmoil, COVID-19 still looms over our lives. Every aspect of life has been touched by the virus, which has led us to have new standards for the way we interact with one another. Specifically, the COVID-19 virus has made communication in high-noise environments a laborious task, as people naturally need to be closer to one another to hear each other and social distance rules prevent this. So, what should you do if your high-noise work environment forces you and your colleagues to shout to communicate?

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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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Permanent Hearing Damage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 125,000 workers each year end up with permanent hearing damage because of workplace noise.

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The promise of noise-canceling headphones can seem like a magic bullet when it comes to protecting the hearing of employees that work around loud noises. That is, however, until you start to think about the health and safety risks that come with looking after a workforce unable to hear you or each other.

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Industrial noise suppression headsets are different from standard noise reduction muffs as well as active noise-canceling headphones, the latter of which are often used on public transportation or within offices when you want to cancel out background noise and listen to music.

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The past ten years have presented some drastic changes within the two-way industry. The advancement of digital radio portfolios such as Motorola’s MOTOTRBO, Kenwood’s NexEdge, and other DMR vendors have given added value to radio users in commercial and industrial organizations. These integrated solutions and applications for voice and data while increasing capacity and providing digital clarity.

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About 22 million people a year are exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels on the job. That attention-getting statistic was reported in an April 2013 article in The Hearing Journal. OSHA's concern in this area got one Texas limestone fabricator's attention. On September 11, 2014, OSHA laid some heavy fines because the employer failed to list the warning signs emitted by the noisy machinery on their shop floor.

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There are many risks facing those who work in the mining industry, not necessarily the least of these being hearing loss. Working constantly next to heavy, loud equipment like conveying systems, drills, and other machinery should be enough to motivate mine workers to wear hearing-protective gear. But, many workers do not, and subsequently suffer some form of hearing loss. 

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The concept that loud machines cause hearing damage with prolonged exposure is not a new concept. However, it’s rare to find a situation nowadays where the effects of machinery in a given activity or function are seen affecting a population without any protection involved. One such study was done in Brazil and published in 2014.

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