While it is not practical to try and prevent industrial deafness caused by accidents at work generating sudden, unexpected loud noises, employers are bound by health and safety regulations to protect you in environments that continually or even occasionally experience high level noise close to or above 85 dB. There are many products for protection against temporary or perhaps even permanent deafness, tinnitus and/or acoustic shock syndrome. Here are some of the best.
These products come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all of them look similar to headphones. Designed to completely cover the wearer’s ear area to effectively reduce high noise levels, they must be properly fitted and sealed. Main types include:
- Over-head ear defenders, where a typically solid band secures the set over the head of the wearer
- Behind-the-head defenders, where the band rests against the back of the wearer’s head; these defenders can be worn with many hard hats/helmets
- Clip-on defenders that clip to the side of hard hats/helmets
- Light-weight ear defenders with just a narrow, often flexible connecting band
- Foldable defenders that can be stored in tool boxes for occasional use
All of the above ear defenders are usually designed for environments with medium to high levels of noise. Naturally, to effectively prevent working accidents involving high noise levels, it is essential to select a defender with the correct simplified noise reduction level. This is typically indicated in product description as, for example, SNR 32 dB or SNR 36 dB. The higher this number is, the better the protection.
This latter principle also applies to ear plugs. Here too it is possible to find many different varieties, including reusable and non-reusable, corded or non-corded options. Corded and non-corded options may consist of:
- High impact polystyrene
- Polymer foam
- Pre-moulded, metal detectable material
- Slow recovery foam
Some ear plugs are known as ‘finger plugs’ as they are shaped so the user can guide them into the correct position with his/ her finger. Others feature special grips to make removal easier. These, however, can be difficult to wear underneath hard hats/ helmets. Mostly used to prevent noise-related work accidents in areas with low to medium noise levels, these options also vary in SNR levels. Reusable plugs are often provided complete with their own carry cases.
Another available option comes in the shape of canal-caps, or semi-inserts. Designed predominantly to be used in low to medium noise level environments, this type of plug basically just covers the ear-canal entrance.
Making industrial deafness claims
Individuals incurring occupational deafness through accidents taking place at work or their employer’s failure to offer protective equipment may qualify for industrial injury compensation. The knowledgeable advisers employed by Accident Advice Helpline will be able to assist you in determining whether you are indeed eligible to make an industrial injury claim against your employer.