Hearing loss is typically a gradual process, and by the time its effects are noticeable, it is often too late to do anything about it. Hearing loss is more common than most people realize, according to the CDC, an average of 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to dangerous levels of noise in the workplace annually. Hearing loss can be caused by several different factors (age, illness, etc.), however, the most common of these is noise-induced hearing loss, especially among older adults.

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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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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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In today’s hectic world of work, it can be difficult to catch a minute of peace. People with labor-intensive jobs that are based outdoors are particularly vulnerable to the detrimental effects of loud noises and often feel the need to escape the sound of heavy machinery. However, manual laborers are not the only workers feeling the effects of excessive noise. With open offices plans now the norm in most workplaces, the sounds of chatter and movement that take place every day can have a number of detrimental effects on productivity and employee wellbeing.

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Can workers protect their hearing and stay alert to workplace hazards? Yes, they can, with the proper hearing protection equipment, safety training and situational-awareness.

Pilots, soldiers, and police officers know how important situational awareness is to their survival on the job. But from a general health and safety perspective, it has a more universal application One Occupational Safety online piece describes it this way:

"(S)ituational awareness means being aware of the surrounding conditions in your immediate work area and recognizing and dealing with unsafe work conditions before they become an issue…"

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The past ten years have presented some drastic changes within the 2-way industry. The advancement of digital radio portfolios such as Motorola’s MotoTRBO, Kenwood’s NexEdge, and other DMR vendors have given additional 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.

In addition to these benefits, the past months have shown an increased movement towards safety compliance and awareness within 2-way radio vendors and accessory partners like Sensear.

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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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