Worker well-being and safety are two of the most important factors being closely watched by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a 2010 document originated by NIOSH, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is cited as stating that the number one occupational illness existing as a result of working in manufacturing environments is hearing loss. It was also determined that most occupational hearing loss occurs gradually over time, with the sufferer usually not even aware of a problem until it’s already been significantly developed.

Previously, worker hearing safety in high noise areas had been thought to be assured by the use of disposable, foam ear plugs. These hearing loss statistics came as somewhat of a surprise, since most workers have easy access to these noise protection devices. Many manufacturing organizations are thought to be spending about $3 per week supplying each worker with disposable earplugs, which typically cost about 15 cents per pair. It’s not unusual for workers to use three or four pairs of plugs per day. However, having access to and utilizing foam earplugs is no guarantee of worker wellbeing when it comes to hearing loss.

Correct and Consistent Earplug Use

In order to properly block damaging noise, foam earplugs must be worn properly, worn consistently and not be removed for the purpose of verbal communication. Rather than simply being inserted in the ear and left hanging, as is most common, they should be tightly rolled, inserted deeply into the ear canal and held in place until fully expanded. When properly inserted, only the outer edge should be visible.

Once properly inserted, foam earplugs need to be worn consistently. This is typically not the case. Often they’re removed because they’re uncomfortable or because it’s impossible to verbally communicate when being worn.

Earplug Triple Play

For earplugs to provide maximum safety to workers’ hearing, they must fit properly, be comfortable to wear and allow for clear verbal communication. Disposable foam earplugs fulfill none of these requirements. The ideal alternative is a custom-fit earplug that solves the “one-size-fits-all” misnomer, is comfortable in the ear for which it’s made and effectively seals out noise yet still allows for clear communication. This is made possible by new-generation earplugs such as those from Custom Protect Ear. These cost less than disposables yet perform admirably. They’re worth investigating.