From its name, double hearing protection is wearing two forms of hearing protection at the same time, for example, wearing earmuffs on top of earplugs. OSHA recommends every worker working in areas that exceed 85 dB to wear hearing protection. The hearing protectors attenuate the noise keeping the noise exposure below 85 dB.
If you are exposed to noises above 100 dB, you should wear double hearing protection. There are plenty of situations when you can wear double protection. These situations include:
1. When working in Agriculture
While the economies of most states are supported by agriculture, if you are working in these industries, you should highly consider wearing double hearing protection as most of the machines produce a lot of noise that is harmful to the ears. The most common machines to be wary of include:
- Tractor 95-100 Db(A);
- Header 88-90 Db(A);
- Orchard Sprayer 85-100 Db(A);
- Angle Grinder 95-105 Db(A);
- Bench Grinder 90-95 Db(A);
- Chainsaw 105-120 Db(A);
- Pig Shed At Feed Time 95-105 Db(A); And
- Shotgun Over 140 Db(C).
Most of the modern tractors are fitted with sound-reducing cabs that keep the noise levels below 80 dB, but older tractors with roll bars produce as much as 100 dB of noise. The amount of noise you are exposed to as a tractor operator depends on the type of tractor you are using and how well you protect yourself from the noise.
In addition to wearing double hearing protection, you also should keep the tractor doors and windows closed at all times. Ensure that the tractor isn’t working too hard than it should. Tractors operating near their maximum power tend to generate higher noise levels which are harmful to you.
When using powered equipment such as mowers, vacuum tankers, harvesters, balers, and straw choppers, ensure that the equipment isn’t too large for your tractor.
Proper maintenance of the tractor ensures that it functions all the time optimally hence producing noise that isn’t too harmful to the ears.
2. When working in a mining factory
Just like in agriculture, there are plenty of noisy machines in the mining industry that can affect your hearing, leading to noise-induced hearing loss. The most common ones being:
- Compressor house (between two compressors)—89-90 dB
- Main belt conveyor—83-84 dB
- Monorail house—93-94 dB
- Double-ended ranging drum shearer—94-95 dB
- Transfer point of belt conveyor—78-79 dB
- Hand sorting conveyor—85-86 dB
- Planting machine—98-99 dB
- The big line saw—77-78 dB
- Engine test hall—102-103 dB
- Sheltered dumping station—92-93 dB
- Circular saw—97-98 dB
- Planning machine—98-99 dB
In addition to wearing hearing protection when mining, other ways you can reduce ear damage include: reducing the hours you work on the site, taking regular breaks, and rotating the tasks with other workers.
If you an engineer you can protect yourself and other workers by choosing processes with lower sound pressure levels, placing the mine plants in quiet areas, isolating the operator’s cab, and moving the noisy machine to areas of the mine that are rarely used.
3. When handling a construction project
From idling noise, blast noise, impact noise, rotating noise, howling, screeches, to background noise, there are all types of sounds present in construction worksites. The most common noises coming from the construction machines include:
- Front end loader—88dB
- Scraper—96 dB
- Bulldozer—96 dB
- Backhoe—86.5 dB
- Grader—96 dB
- Paver—101 dB
- Roller—90 dB
- Crane—100 dB
- Pile driver—98 dB
- Compressed air blower—104 dB
- Electric drill—102 dB
- Air track drill—113 dB
While many people have the impression that a construction site should be noisy, there are a number of things you can do to make it quieter:
One of the things you can do is to replace a loud process with a quieter one: For example, if pile driving is loud, consider undertaking boring, which is much quieter.
You also should consider getting new machines that are known to be quieter. When making the purchase, ask the equipment manufacturers about the noise levels of the equipment. As a rule of thumb, go for the most silent machines you can afford.
If your old machine is still in good condition, consider making it quieter by making a number of modifications. For example, you can add new mufflers or sound-absorbing materials.
Constructing barriers around the noisy equipment comes in handy at reducing the noise levels. Use plywood or any other sound-absorbing materials to absorb the noise.
4. When working in the manufacturing industry
Manufacturing processes, machinery, and equipment produce a lot of noise that can lead to permanent hearing loss. The sounds vary depending on the industry you are in. You should not only wear the hearing protection devices, but you also should reduce the amount of time you are exposed to the noise.
You also should regularly visit your doctor for ear testing. This prevents you from having abrupt hearing loss.
If you work for a long time in the transportation industry
Since almost everyone uses a form of transportation every day, many people ignore the amount of noise that comes from the various forms of transportation. The primary sources of noise include: horn, engine, brakes, exhaust, wind-body interaction, and tire-pavement interaction.
Since the noise results from a continuous stream of vehicles and not a single car, you don’t have to wear double protection if you are on the road for a few minutes.
If you are constructing the road and you have to be out on the road for hours, you are a police officer directing traffic for hours, or you work close to the road the entire day, you may consider protecting your hearing from the noise coming from the vehicles.
5. When In the military
When you are in the military, you are not only exposed to sharp noises coming from the guns, and you are also exposed to noises from planes, tankers, and other military machines that produce deafening noise.
When you are in the military, you need to have good hearing capability so that you can tell where the sounds are coming from; therefore, when your hearing is compromised, you stand losing your job.
To protect your hearing, wear double hearing protection when you are boarding planes, operating the tankers, or when shooting.
Are there benefits of wearing earplugs under electronic hearing protectors?
Just like when you wear the regular earmuffs, the protection you get from electronic hearing protectors will protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss and ear damage. The electronics in the electronic hearing protectors transmit and/or amplify low-level sounds so that you can still hear them.
This is crucial in the military and factory settings where you need to keep off the loud noises, but you still need to listen to your supervisor or captain.
If you have electronic earplugs, you can wear passive earmuffs and keep off most of the loud noises that are harmful to the ears. It’s normal for some of the clarity of the electronically transmitted sounds to be lost, but your listening quality will be improved.
Using double hearing protection to block nonhazardous but annoying noises
You might be at home studying, and you aren’t interested in hearing your neighbor’s noise. If the earplugs aren’t reducing the noise as well as you would want them to, consider wearing earmuffs on top of them. The additional 4-8 dB noise reduction will reduce the noise by up to 45 %.
Guide to buying hearing protection
Ensure that the devices provide you with enough noise protection. You also need to ensure that the pieces are comfortable and hygienic to wear. If you are working in construction or any other area that requires you to wear a hard hat, think of how you will wear the noise protection devices without compromising their effectiveness.
Don’t buy pieces that cut too much noise as they can bring about isolation making it hard to hear what your supervisor is saying. The breakdown of communication leads to awful results.
Taking care of the ear protection devices
For you to get the most of the double hearing protectors, you need to take good care of them and keep them in top shape. Maintain them in good, clean condition. Regularly inspect the earmuffs and ensure that the seals are intact and not damaged.
Also, take a look at the tension of the headbands and ensure that it’s not reduced or compromised.
When it comes to earplugs, they should be soft, clean, and pliable. If any of the hearing protection devices are dirty or damaged, consider replacing them.