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Hearing aids + earmuffs: counter-intuitive hearing conservation.

Newsletter of the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation 2004 Summer; 16(2):1, 6
At first glance, the thought of wearing hearing aids underneath earmuffs may seem counter-intuitive, crazy or contrary to OSHA or MSHA regulations. After all, the reason for wearing hearing protection devices (HPDs) is to reduce the sound level in the ear sufficiently so that the worker will not sustain a noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). What justification could there be for increasing the sound level under the HPD? Furthermore, even if such a justification did exist, would not the increased sound level put the worker at increased risk for NIHL? Many workers do not wear HPDs or do not wear them consistently. One of the primary reasons given by workers for not consistently wearing HPDs is that they interfere with speech communication (Morata et al., 2001). Other barriers to HPD use include beliefs that HPDs reduce job safety and the ability to hear warning signals (Verbsky, 2004). Workers who have hearing loss continue to be employed in the same hazardous noise conditions in which they acquired their NIHLs. For listeners with hearing loss, HPDs could reduce the audibility of speech to such low sensation levels that speech intelligibility is reduced, or worse, speech is rendered completely inaudible (Verbsky, 2002). Since HPDs may impede communication for workers with hearing loss, these workers may be less likely to wear HPDs than their normal-hearing coworkers thus potentially putting them at increased risk for additional NIHL.
Hearing-conservation; Hearing-level; Hearing-protection; Ear-protection; Ear-protectors; Noise-control; Noise-exposure; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Speech-transmission; Hearing-impairment
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology , Mail Stop C-27, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226
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Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Hearing Loss
Source Name
Newsletter of the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation