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While most audiologists realize that exposure to power tool noise while wood working can be hazardous to your hearing, there are still others that are not convinced. Often they feel that they have been exposed to noise for such a long time more exposure it will not make much difference. Since there is already a hearing loss so….“So what, a little more noise will not make it that much worse and I hate those earplugs anyway!” Of course, this is the wrong idea as we know that further damage can not only impair hearing but can make tinnitus worse and possibly has other complications. Why Is Hearing Protection Important When Woodworking? The first thing you need to know is that hearing protection isn’t optional. You shouldn’t try to skip out or “be tough” in the place of hearing protection. Sound is measured in decibels. The major points on the scale are 0 decibels which is the threshold of hearing and 140 decibels is the threshold for pain. This doesn’t mean you should only worry about sounds that are around 140 decibels. In fact, you can experience hearing loss at extended exposure to sounds at a level of 90 decibels. These numbers don’t mean much if you are only casually familiar with decibel measurement. Instead, it’s important to explain these levels via comparison. Putting these numbers in perspective, rustling leaves are measured at about 10 decibels. Once you get up to 90 decibels, you are looking at a sound level of a tractor or an electric drill. By the time you get to 140 decibels and higher, these are sounds such as a plane taking off. Even higher than that are fireworks, a cap gun, a balloon pop, or gunshots. To put this into the context of woodworking, there are a lot of sounds in a shop or even in your garage that can be damaging. A benchtop planer recently reviewed by Toolsy can put off sounds at levels of 105 to 110 decibels. Even a handheld router offers 95 to 115 decibels. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that hearing protection be used for any prolonged exposure to sounds at 85 decibels.
1. Use hearing protection on infants and young children in noisy environments. Ear muffs are a great way to protect your child's hearing when he or she is exposed to noise as a very young child. Whether it is a sporting event, concert, or the movie theater, loud sounds can be damaging to young ears. Infant ear muffs are a safe and effective way to protect your babies ears from potential auditory damage. Most ear muffs are expandable which allows for years of use for children into toddlerhood and childhood. 2. Monitor the volume of electronic devices. Kids often cannot self regulate the volume of what they are listening to. It is important for parents to set the volume level and not let it exceed a certain volume level. Some devices allow you as the parent to set the maximum volume. If you can hear the sound from the earbud or headphone while the child is wearing it, it's too loud. 3. Limit time exposed to loud noise. The more time spent in loud noise, the more damage it can cause. When it comes to electronic devices, limit the child's exposure time to ensure the ears are not being over exposed to noise. 4. Create good hearing protection habits. Instruct the child to wear hearing protection consistently and enforce hearing protection rules from the start. Normalize wearing ear plugs or ear muffs in noisy places to encourage hearing health. 5. Know the facts about earbuds and headphones. Headphones are not always safer than earbuds. It is a common misconception that headphones don’t do as much damage as ear buds, and this is not true. Both types of hearing devices can cause damage if loud enough. Noise canceling headphones are sometimes used as a safer option, as they can eliminate noise that sometimes causes listeners to turn up the volume to hear over the noise. Although they still can reach very high volumes, this can be used to keep children from wanting higher volumes. 6. Be a positive hearing protection example. Show your child that it is important to you to protect your hearing and they will do the same. Turn down the volume of your TV or radio in the car to a safe level. 7. Use a sound level meter app to help judge environmental sounds. Sound level meter apps are not regulated, so they may not always be 100% accurate, but they can still be a helpful tool in gauging if sounds are too loud. Use them to measure the TV, sound machines in a child's room, music, gyms, daycares, or classrooms. 8. Educate yourself and your child on hearing health. Noise exposure causes hearing loss. Know what a healthy volume is and teach children the importance of protecting their own hearing. Early hearing protection use will help preserve your child’s hearing in the future. They will thank you down the road for protecting their hearing. 9. Obtain a baseline hearing test. It's never too early for a hearing exam. Whether you simply want a hearing baseline or if you have hearing concerns, it's always a good idea to reach out to an audiologist and have your child's hearing checked
Modern earmuffs with Bluetooth connectivity are improving safety on noisy job sites while simultaneously diminishing the need for workers to double up on hearing protection. With these new models, there is no need to also wear earplugs, though it may be required for intensely noisy environments. There are times in our lives when we know it’s going to be loud— really loud. It may be at work. It may be at home, or at play. This knowledge gives us the opportunity to plan ahead. We can protect ourselves from permanent hearing loss by taking precautions. You may be asking though: Are earplugs or earmuffs by themselves enough? Do you need more protection? Or is there a point at which the added hearing protection is negligible? Do earmuffs block out sound? Earmuffs are similar to the older-style headphones (that are now back in fashion). They completely cover the ears and can be fitted with noise-canceling technology. There are different earmuff types and sizes, for different purposes. If equipped with noise-canceling technology they will either use electronics to block sound or muffle them. Some are quite effective at silencing background sound. Often, though, if you work in an environment where you need earmuffs, you may have a pair that allow you to communicate electronically with your coworkers. Protecting your hearing with earplugs & earmuffs If you work in a noisy facility, you’re rarely exposed to ear-damaging sound regularly. There are usually specific rooms that are louder than others, or events that can cause the noise level to increase for a short time. A jackhammer, bead blaster, or arc welder would make this level of noise. In these cases, noise can exceed 100 decibels (dB). OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) has rules in place to protect workers in this setting. A person can only be exposed to 90 dB for 8 hours. For every 5 dB, the sound goes up, the time allowed in that space gets cut in half. Employers must test the noise levels to be confident they’re compliant. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requires that employees use dual protection when exposed to 105 dB for greater than 8 hours. Though these rules do protect workers, they still permit exposure to damaging noise levels. Damage begins at just 85 dB. Many employees are in job roles where they experience this level of noise, and their employer should provide extra protection with earplugs or earmuffs or both. How dual-protection impacts employee safety overall Balancing hearing protection and overall safety is paramount. There is also concern that dual protection may increase accident risk. This fear is a common concern among pilots, police, and soldiers but can be equally troubling for those in a construction or manufacturing setting. If sounds are blocked, these workers may not be able to hear well enough to avoid danger. People wearing double protection may experience: Tuning out — A state in which the mind drifts from what they’re doing because their hearing isn’t engaged Relaxation — Being overly relaxed in some work environments can be dangerous. Hyper-awareness — When we lose a sense, even temporarily, this can lead to over-compensation by the other senses. Some people experience dizziness and exhaustion as a result or an increase in stress. Hyper-alertness — Loss of a sense can lead to an odd or impulsive reaction as the person is on constant high alert. This alertness can be channeled into an asset or it can become a liability. Falling asleep — For a hearing person, not hearing can cause drowsiness. The person could accidentally fall asleep if they’re not moving. Employers must balance these risks with hearing protection. They can do this by providing training for those working in a soundless environment. They can additionally put visual cues and communication methods in place to help their employees stay safe. Finally, they can provide training on how to wear dual protection. Misuse these devices even over a short period of time can lead to permanent hearing loss. Because an employer must weigh the risks versus the benefits, there are times when dual protection would be overkill. Because of this, OSHA doesn’t mandate dual protection. Employers should also consider newer earmuffs, which allow workers to communicate. New earmuff technologies Several novel developments in earmuff technologies have been introduced that can help employers and employees mitigate some of the possible and perceived safety drawbacks associated with hearing protection. Earmuffs that address these safety tradeoff concerns are an important step in securing wide adoption of hearing protection policies. Employees and employers alike do not want to feel as though taking steps to protect their hearing will minimize their performance or their safety. New earmuff technologies are designed to minimize any such possible tradeoffs. Communication and hearing protection Some of the most recent earmuff innovations include impro