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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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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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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Employee safety must always be the top priority in the workplace. When the risk of occupational hazards increases in certain professions, preventative measures to protect employees become increasingly crucial. The risks increase significantly when employees are exposed to consistent loud noise as part of their daily roles. A deep understanding of the causes, effects and prevention measures available can help to protect employees at risk.

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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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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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