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Since its creation by a group of engineers at Ericsson in 1994, Bluetooth technology has advanced significantly and been used in a myriad of communications devices. You might be using Bluetooth to connect your cell phone to an ear piece or to your car; you might use it to connect a mouse to laptop or to a tablet; or you might even be using it to monitor your sleep patterns using a Bluetooth enabled device.

Bluetooth technology in a high noise work environment.

With all the advances, it’s no surprise to see Bluetooth become part of the Hearing Safety and Protection ecosystem—particularly in environments that demand Intrinsically Safe devices. Low power, a one-size-fits-all compatibility standard, and the flexibility/mobility it provides to workers is unprecedented. And while Bluetooth has been around for more than 20 years, there are still plenty of questions around what it is and why it should be used.

Why Bluetooth hearing protection?

While hearing protection is advised for a variety of activities, working in a high-noise environment requires unique protection as exposure to consistent, loud noise can lead to permanent hearing loss. OSHA limits industrial noise at 90db. Exposure to sounds at 85db or louder for prolonged periods of time can lead to ear damage or hearing loss.

To protect workers in high-noise environments like mining, aviation and construction, companies have to choose options for worker hearing protection. One of them is in the form of Bluetooth technology.

Bluetooth technology is a great option for hearing protection for its flexibility and hands-free use.

Our team of engineers has pulled together a quick list of the key features and benefits of Bluetooth (and a little technical info as well), and how Bluetooth is helpful in high noise work environments.

  1. Bluetooth is, at the end of the day, just a transmitter…

Bluetooth is similar to just about any other wireless system that allows you to share voice, data, and other information between paired devices without wires. Underneath it all, it’s basically a radio that sends and receives radio frequency (RF) signals. It is the other layers of error correction, controller and device managing, software core and more built on top of this radio that makes Bluetooth work so well as a (primarily) one-to-one wireless solution. For more in-depth information on this, do visit here.

  1. …that allows you to lose the physical cables

Bluetooth allows you to get rid of your physical cables. There’s no need for workers to be tethered to a device or use really long cables. This is particularly useful if you want to leave a device on a charging stand and continue to work nearby.  

  1. Bluetooth is a standard, one-size-fits-all system…

The list of applications for Bluetooth is expansive. Smartphones, headphones, computer mice, and heart rate monitors—the list grows daily. And switching Bluetooth connections between these devices is easy.  

For example, one Bluetooth headset can change between multiple devices, including a base radio or your worker’s smartphones. Same headset, same interface. Easy! It’s extremely convenient and efficient to be able to toggle a software-based connection as opposed to maintaining multiple physical cable connections.

We all know cables are prone to wear and tear. From contacts wearing out or becoming intermittent to complete cable failure, this is a hidden cost to any wired solution. Conversely, Bluetooth modules are typically protected in the device’s housing, protecting it from wear and extreme environmental conditions.  

  1.  …but has different profiles (WARNING: this gets a little technical)

That all being said, not all Bluetooth is created equal. Just because two devices have Bluetooth doesn’t necessarily mean they’re compatible. They need to have matching “profiles”. Profiles pair devices of similar application and tailor the Bluetooth behavior based on the application. This way Bluetooth knows how to behave with a phone device as opposed to a printer. Typical profile examples include:

HFP – Hands-free Profile

Hands-free audio devices like mobile phones make use of HFP. This is designed to handle actions like incoming calls: answering, rejecting, and a range of other functions.

HSP – Headset Profile

HSP is an older and more generic audio profile, used for general audio headset applications. This is commonly used by two-way radios.

A2DP – Advanced Audio Distribution Profile

A2DP is designed for higher quality audio streaming that can match CD quality. It’s mostly used in Bluetooth gaming headsets and is largely adopted by most modern smartphones where higher audio quality is demanded.

Bluetooth devices take a role when they connect, master (like a mobile phone) or slave (like a Bluetooth headset). Usually these roles are set. This means that even though two phones may support HFP, they cannot connect to each other as they both act as a master device.

  1. Bluetooth Can Be Upgraded. And Upgraded. And Upgraded.

Being that Bluetooth is a wireless, software-driven solution it offers manufacturers and customers benefits that wired-based solutions just don’t offer. One key benefit is that you can upgrade the software and features in Bluetooth devices fairly easily, without the expense associated with throwing out a perfectly usable device to upgrade to the next generation.  

Some manufacturers take advantage of this flexibility to add extra features or functionality (often proprietary) to their Bluetooth devices. One major area this is done is with Push to Talk (PTT)-over-Bluetooth feature. Sensear is constantly increasing our functionality (like adding PTT protocols), in an effort to constantly improve our ability to offer a more truly and complete wireless experience.

  1. Bluetooth is By Nature, Intrinsically Safe.

Without mechanical moving parts, metal components to create sparks or power running up a cable, Bluetooth is inherently a safer option than wired connections. In critical and hazardous environments where full situational awareness is key, and your headset, radio/phone and cable all need to be safe, Bluetooth removes the factor of a cable and makes compliance very simple.  

The One Question to Ask Whether You Should Choose Hearing Protection With Bluetooth or Not? 

How do you know if you should have Bluetooth enabled devices for hearing protection? You can check out our post on 6 Signs You Should Consider Investing In Bluetooth for High Noise Environments .

But if you don’t have time for that, ask yourself: do your workers use mobile devices on the job? If so, that presents a number of compliance, risk and safety concerns—many of which can be solved with the proper implementation and use of Bluetooth-enabled devices for hearing protection.

For more information on Bluetooth hearing protection devices in your safety and hearing programs and environments contact us  today!

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