A wide range of industries in Pennsylvania are seeing an increase in the number of employees with some form of hearing loss. Such employees are at a higher risk for injury because they have difficulty communicating and hearing alarms and other warning sounds, especially when they are wearing hearing protection. While they are subject to the same OSHA regulations as other workers, OSHA does have recommendations when it comes to hearing protectors.
Hearing protectors are able to enhance audibility while still protecting workers from excessive noise levels. One type is called the passive uniform-attenuation hearing protector; it reduces sounds at all frequencies, not just high frequencies, which are the frequencies where much of human speech resides. Another is the active level-dependent hearing protector, which requires a power source.
Many workers wear hearing aids, but this should be avoided in noisy environments unless workers wear protective earmuffs over the devices. Passive earmuffs, especially those with a uniform-attenuation capability, can greatly improve audibility.
In any case, there is no way that workers with a hearing aid behind the ear or in the ear canal can simply use foam earplugs. Finding the right solution can largely depend on workers talking with their audiologist.
Employers may want to take steps to ensure that employees get the right hearing protectors for their type of hearing aid. If they do not, they may have to face a case under workers’ compensation law after an employee is injured on the job. Another possibility is that a worker with good hearing will experience diminished hearing after long-term exposure to loud noises on the job. Either situation can allow victims to file for workers’ comp benefits, but victims may want to hire a lawyer beforehand. Negligence does not need to be proven for victims to receive benefits.