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U.S. Department of Labor to Help Combat Hearing Loss

By Sally Murdoch

Graphic Products carries hearing PPE to combat occupational hearing loss.

Across the U.S., every year 22 million employees are at risk of losing their hearing while at work. Employers pay an estimated $242 million annually in workers’ compensation cases, according to OSHA. Additionally, in 2015, companies in the U.S. paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers’ ears from noise hazards.

To help combat this national problem, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is summoning the help of inventors and entrepreneurs by introducing a national competition for ideas. The mission is simple: help to develop a technological solution to hearing loss in the workplace. Together with the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), DOL and OSHA have launched “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge,” which attempts to inspire creative ideas, while raising occupational awareness for workplace safety innovation.

A Competition Designed to Inspire a Solution to Hearing Loss

If you’ve got a tech idea or invention related to occupational hearing loss that you’re hoping to shop out there, this may be your chance. OSHA and partners have put out a call for entries on a new technology that overcomes barriers of preventing work-induced hearing loss. The competition is open to all ideas related to occupational hearing protection. See the DOL’s Hear and Now website for competition format, a link to submit competition ideas, and more information.

Hearing hazard premade signs and hearing PPE can help employees and guests retain their healthy hearingIn submitting an idea, participants in the competition will first need to describe the problem they’re solving. Second, they’ll need to submit a design concept that addresses the problem, showing qualifying info on how the idea is different from anything currently available and how it would address the specific need. Finally, applicants will need to provide diagrams, sketches, and mock-up views that illustrate their vision.

The competition is open to the general public, including OSHA contractors and special government employees and idea submissions are due by September 30. Ten finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on October 27 in Washington D.C. The event will feature investors, representatives of the NIOSH Research to Practice Program and representatives of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Hearing Loss is Preventable with PPE, but It's Not Reversible

According to the DOL, people can’t rely on hearing aids for their hearing needs. In fact, as written on the DOL’s hearing site: “hearing aids may help, but they do not restore your hearing to normal.”  Additionally:

  • OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels, roughly the volume at which you could hear somebody 3 feet away without raising their voice, averaged over 8 working hours
  • Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear. More exposure will result in increasing the dead nerve endings. The result is permanent hearing loss which in unable to be corrected by surgery or medicine
  • Short-term exposure to loud noise can also cause changes in hearing, or tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears. This may go away within a few hours of leaving the noisy area, however, repeated exposure to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus, hearing loss, or both
  • Noise-induced hearing loss limits your ability to hear high-frequency sounds and to understand speech. This seriously impairs your ability to communicate

Gear Up for Safe Hearing at your Facility

Keeping employees and guests informed of noise hazards is always a good idea, and Graphic Products has premade signage to do the trick. As well as hearing PPE signs & labels, we also carry a large selection of essential protective gear for the workplace, including eye protection, footwear, protective clothing, and more.