The 2022 Trends in Hearing Protection & Ear Safety
“To hear for life, listen with care” – the theme of this year’s World Hearing Day 2022 hit the nail on the head: Only if we take good care of our hearing and listen safely can we ensure good hearing health throughout the entire span of our lives.
It is true that the common causes of hearing loss – occupational and recreational noise exposure – can be prevented. And while the increasing public interest in hearing protection suggests that the message has finally arrived, hearing loss remains one of Australia’s most common work-related injuries.
Today, an estimated 32% per cent of workers are exposed to hazardous noise.
Due to this development, there has been a lot of innovation around active hearing protection over the past few years, especially surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE) and Bluetooth hearing protection.
What’s New in PPE Ear Protection in 2022?
|Hearing protectors are used where there is an increased risk of hearing damage due to noise exposure.|
Greater comfort now front and centre
At the same time, these tools need to allow workers to hear instructions and warnings in the work environment.
Keeping this in mind, hearing protection manufacturers have been seeking ways to make their products more comfortable while reducing the need for employees to remove them to communicate.
Comparing new models to the standard from just a decade ago, you’ll see that today’s earplugs are smaller and easier to insert and reduce the risk of contamination since people are less likely to keep removing them to have a chat with their coworkers.
The hope is that in doing so, modern hearing protectors will eventually increase the likelihood of employees wearing them.
Incorporated electronic communications
Aware of the disadvantages PPE had in the past, manufacturers now also incorporate electronic communications we already know from regular and wireless headphones into hearing protection devices and gadgets.
Earmuffs and earphones of the latest generation connect to smartphones, two-way radio and other PPE devices, so workers can easily hear environmental noise or listen to radio communications without removing their ear protection.
PPE Now Comes with Active Noise Reduction
Standard, passive hearing protection has been around for decades, and while it’s very effective against mid-and high-frequency noise, it has its limitations.
Low-frequency noise waves, common in many industrial environments, can penetrate passive barriers and wreak havoc on sensitive hearing organs.
Active noise-reducing technology is a feature known from the noise-cancelling headphones that already keep many of us sane on our daily commutes or in busy office spaces.
In 2022, this technology will find its way into many more ears.
What makes modern PPE actively noise-reducing?
Actively noise-reducing hearing protection uses a technique called soundproofing that makes it possible to listen to audio without raising the volume to drown out intrusive environmental noise.
PPE manufacturers such as ISOtunes, Plugfones and Sensear are one step ahead and apply this new key feature to their products to enhance hearing protection and increase a worker’s ability to communicate in high-noise environments.
Do noise-cancelling headphones protect your hearing?
This does bare the question of whether you can just use your regular noise-cancelling headphones to protect your hearing in these settings?
While the headphones you use to listen to music or take Zoom calls are great at
blocking out background noise, they aren’t always the right answer.
They may protect your hearing to some degree – but this is mostly because they prevent you from turning up the volume at which you listen to music or watch movies too far.
Regular headphones, noise-cancelling or not, do not protect you from sudden, loud noise since they do not offer the protective sealing that PPE does.
|Note: We highly advise against using noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones in place of hearing protection (noise-cancelling or passive) in industrial work environments.|
You may risk permanent hearing impairments because these devices are not designed to protect your ears from occupational noise exposure.
One Size Hearing Protection Does Not Fit All
Just like fingerprints, ear shapes and sizes vary from person to person. How effective hearing protection truly is, therefore, largely depends on how well it fits.
For example, different sized ear canals will have different requirements to ensure the appropriate amount of protection from loud noises.
You’d think that this fact would make professional fit checks mandatory, but it is unfortunately up to the individual to ensure any hearing protection is fitted correctly.
In some cases, workplaces have audiometric services providers come directly to worksites to
- Fit their employees with the appropriate PPE,
- Educate them on the risks and preventative measures,
- And conduct Audiometric Tests to monitor the hearing thresholds of individuals.
When Should Personal Ear Protection be Used?
Australian employers must protect the health and safety of their employees by protecting them from excessive noise exposure.
To correctly evaluate whether or not that should involve the wearing of hearing protectors, companies need to measure the level of noise entering their workers’ ears on a daily base.
But how loud is too loud? The legal limits are defined in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, which sets the noise exposure standard measured in units called decibels (dB).
- The standard is an 8-hour average of 85 dB,
- At a peak noise level of 140 dB.
In other words, if the average noise level during an 8-hour shift is 85 dB or higher, hearing protection must be worn. This is regularly the case in factory settings, where noise exposure stays constant and high.
But, impact or explosive noise poses an immediate risk of hearing loss.
If noise levels only sporadically meet or exceed this threshold, for example, in workplaces with irregular but excessively loud noises – think, a hairdresser using a hair dryer, a construction worker using a power tool, hearing protection is also required.
Are you keen to learn more about protecting your hearing and the latest in modern hearing protection? Visit our website or explore our hearing newsroom, covering all things hearing health.
If you’d like to enquire about our custom earplugs services or schedule a comprehensive hearing test, get in touch with us online, or call 1300 736 702 today!