Hearing protection

The Danger

Noise induced hearing loss is irreparable.
It has the potential to affect workers in a variety of environments from food factories to steel mills, printing works, nightclubs and motorbike couriers. Hazardous noise should be removed from the workplace whenever possible. In situations where dangerous noise exposure cannot be easily controlled or eliminated, hearing protection is recommended. It is vital that the type of hearing protection selected be appropriate for the levels of noise experienced, that it is comfortable and worn correctly. Anderco Safety can provide full on-site training and asisstance in implementing an effective hearing conservation programme. In our Hearing Protection catalogue, we have detailed a cross section of hearing protection products which represent those most commonly used in industry today. Our stock products are available for 24 hour delivery. Also included is detailed information on the relevant product standards to assist you with the selection process. Should you have a requirement which is not met by our catalgoue, please contact our Sales Helpdesk on 1850 303304 for assistance.

Hearing Loss

Types of Hearing Loss
Noise exposure and intense sounds can cause two main types of hearing loss:
Temporary threshold shift
This is mostly experienced as dullness in hearing after exposure to loud noises. Hearing subsequently recovers depending on how loud the noises have been and exposure duration.
Permanent threshold shift
This is first experienced 48 hours after exposure to excessive noise. It can occur with regular exposure to excessive noise for long periods or exposure to high sound levels for a short period. This type of hearing loss will usually continue to increase for up to five years after exposure to the noise and may result in Tinnitus.

At Risk

Who is at Risk?
Anyone who is exposed to noise is at risk. The higher the noise level and the longer the exposure to it, the greater the risk of suffering harm from noise. In manufacturing and mining 40% of employees experience significant noise levels for more than half of their working life. For construction, the proportion is 35% and in many other sectors including agriculture, communications and transport, the figure is 20%. In addition noise is being recognised as a problem in service sectors such as education and healthcare, bars and restaurants.


Current Noise Exposure Regulations
The regulations on noise require action by employers to protect people at work. The employer must measure sound to determine the level of noise and the exposure levels of workers affected. They must also try to reduce the level of noise exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable. The regulations impose specific duties on employers where the exposure level of employees exceeds 80 dB(A). Further duties are imposed at an exposure of 85 dB(A).   At an exposure level of 80 dB(A) the employer must:
  • Provide information about the level of exposure and the risks.
  • Provide hearing protectors and training on how to use them.
  • Make hearing checks available.
  At an exposure level of 85 dB(A) the employer must:
  • Identify the cause of the noise.
  • Put up signs indicating the level exceeds 85 dB(A) and that hearing protectors must be worn.
  • Provide training for the workers concerned regarding the risks to their hearing, the measures to reduce the noise and the necessity for wearing protectors.
  Under current regulations, employers are required to ensure that:
  • Noise experienced at work is assessed and measured as needed.
  • Formal assessment records (noise measurement results, equipment calibration results and audiometric test records of employees) are archived for at least three years and made available to employees and HSA inspectors.
  • Noise risks in the workplace are reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable.
  • Where the exposure to noise is likely to exceed 80dB(A) the suitable and adequate personal ear protectors are provided.
  • Where it is not reasonably practicable to reduce the daily personal noise exposure of a worker below 80 dB(A), regular hearing checks are made available.


Measuring Noise Levels
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An A-weighting sometimes written as dB(A), is used to measure average (attenuated) noise levels. It is an expression of the relative loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear. C-weighting is used to to measure peak, impact or explosive noises. You might just notice a 3 dB change in noise level, because of the way our ears work. Yet every 3 dB doubles the noise, so what might seem like small differences in the numbers can be quite significant.


Choosing the Correct Hearing Protector
A common reason for neglecting to use proper hearing protection is that the wrong choice was made in the first place. More sophisticated hearing protection than the situation demands can be perceived as uncomfortable and it becomes unnecessarily difficult to understand speech and signals. A common error is to over attenuate or chose a hearing protector reduce the sound level by more than necessary. In this case, there is a risk that the wearer will remove the hearing protector while talking to colleagues and, thereby, suffer from hearing loss. Therefore, how much should a hearing protector attenuate? The principle is simple – take the A-weighted sound level at the workplace and subtract the hearing protector’s stated attenuation level for that type of noise. With the right hearing protector, the result should be between 75 and 80 dB Aweighted sound level. The choice of hearing protector is individual. Choosing your own is the best guarantee for frequent use. As long as the hearing protector meets the safety requirements, the user should make the final choice. The basic rule is that hearing protection must be worn 100% of the time if the wearer is in an environment that has an A-weighted noise level of 85 dB. 100% usage gives the expected protection. 99% usage significantly reduces the effect of the hearing protector. 90% usage offers virtually no protection at all.

Types of Protectors Available

Hearing protection includes earplugs and earmuffs that are designed to reduce the intensity or loudness of sound.


Foam Plugs
Made from expandable, slow recovery foam, these earplugs have to be compressed or shaped prior to insertion.
Premoulded Plugs
Made from flexible materials that are preformed to fit the ear. They are generally available with a joining cord to prevent loss.
Banded Earplugs
Consist of pods of flexible tips on a lightweight headband. These are ideal for intermittent use.
Detectable Earplugs
Metal detectable, with bright, easy to see colours ideal for the food manufacturing industry.
Musician’s Earplugs
designed for moderate noise reduction. For many sound exposures such as live music, public events and transportation, these provide the needed protection while making listening easier and more enjoyable.
Custom Moulded Earplugs
made from a custom impression of the ear canal and acoustically verified for fit. Such fit verification is important since the acoustic seal of an ear mould can be compromised if the impression is not precise enough for an exact fit.


Passive Earmuff
Consisting of rigid cups with soft cushions that seal around the ears to block noise. Earmuffs come in one position or multiposition bands. Cushions may be filled with foam, liquid or a combination. Earmuffs protect against a very wide spectrum of noise levels.
Helmet Mounted Earmuff
Earmuffs are available in styles for attachment to helmets. Where a combination of hazards exist and it is required that hearing and head protection is worn, this is a popular option.
Electronic Earmuff
Use a microphone embedded in the ear cup to pick up sounds and transmit them through the earmuff to an earphone inside.

Selecting Hearing Protectors

Selecting & Using Hearing Protectors
These amplify weak sounds while reducing loud noises. This facilitates better hearing at low sound levels without the need to remove the device while still providing sufficient protection at higher sound levels. Typically the electronics limit the amplified sound to a predetermined safe value less than 85 dB(A). These can be excellent for use while hunting or on the firing line, and for those with mild hearing loss as they can amplify sounds – making it easier to hear.
Communications Earmuff
Earmuffs that incorporate communications systems for people covering large areas within a noisy environment.
Earmuff with Radio
An earmuff which plugs into an earphone jack on an entertainment device, or has a built in entertainment device, to provide balance noise reduction while simultaneously permitting listening.

Care & Maintenance

Care & Maintenance:Hearing Protectors
Earplugs are usually disposed of after use. However, there are ranges of reuseable earplugs available that can be washed in mild liquid detergent and warm water. Squeeze excess water from the plugs and allow them to air dry. Once dry, store them in a carry case. Premoulded plugs will normally last several months depending upon the type and environmental factors. They should be replaced if they shrink, swell, harden or soften, tear, crack or become permanently deformed. Most banded earplugs can be cleaned in the same way as premoulded earplugs. Since the headband holds the tips in place to provide an acoustic seal, do not tamper with it or the protection the device provides may be reduced. Earmuff cushions should be cleaned with warm, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly. Do not use alcohol or solvents. Cushions normally need replacing twice a year or more – whenever they become stiff, cracked or do not seal. Do not modify earmuffs in any way and, especially, do not stretch or abuse the headbands as this will reduce your protection.



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