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NIOSH Program Portfolio

 

Manufacturing

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZJHN - Hearing Protector Performance for Impulse Noise

Start Date: 10/1/2009
End Date: 9/30/2013

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Amir Khan
Phone: 513-841-4363
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DART
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed
4.0

Secondary Goal Addressed
None


Attributed to Manufacturing
50%

Project Description

Short Summary

More than 30 million workers are exposed to potentially hazardous noise and, at present, the primary redress available to them is use of hearing protective devices (HPDs). This project’s goal is to develop and verify testing methods necessary to assess nonlinear passive HPDs, electronically augmented HPDs, as well as traditional passive HPDs such that they may be followed by other laboratories.

Part of that assessment will involve the analysis of data collected in an earlier large inter-laboratory study of test methods. To assist other laboratories testing passive HPDS, a “Noise Reduction Rating Calculator” will be developed. All of the work of this project will underpin the provision of technical support to the EPA as it revises its HPD labeling regulation.

This project provides significant contribution to the NIOSH Hearing Loss Prevention Cross Sector plans. The results of the project will lead to new regulations for hearing protection devices. Three new acoustical standards for testing and rating hearing protection devices have resulted from this effort.



Description

This project will complement a directly funded EPA interagency agreement project. The Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with enforcing the labeling of hearing protection devices (HPDs) used in industry. The EPA relies on NIOSH research as a basis for promulgating HPD labeling regulations. New research projects and development efforts will be undertaken for the EPA and will be associated with this project. This project’s goal is to develop and verify testing methods necessary to assess non -linear passive HPDs, electronically augmented HPDs, as well as traditional passive HPDs such that they may be tested by other laboratories. Part of that assessment will involve the analysis of data collected in an earlier large inter-laboratory study of test methods. To assist other laboratories testing passive HPDS, a “Noise Reduction Rating Calculator” will be developed. All of the work of this project will underpin the provision of technical support to the EPA as it revises its HPD labeling regulation. The PS&B for the EPA efforts are also funded through this project.

For the past several years, NIOSH has conducted a wide range of research for hearing protection devices and developed new standards for acoustic testing. The main goal of the project is to provide EPA with support of the revised regulation. NIOSH will be completing work on impulse noise evaluations of hearing protection devices and will be developing a new impulse noise reduction rating calculator using the latest testing standard.



Mission Relevance

More than 30 million workers are exposed to potentially hazardous noise and, at present, the primary redress available to them is use of passive hearing protective devices. Because hearing loss prevention is a cross-sector program, a wide range of workers are affected by the requirement of the US Environmental Protection Agency that hearing protection devices be labeled using methods which were developed over three decades ago. Hearing protection devices which incorporate technologies such as Bluetooth-enabled protectors, active noise cancellation and hearing enhancement features were not available at the time of the EPA’s promulgation of the labeling regulation. Consequently, these features are not reflected in the noise reduction rating. The project has a broad range of application across all sectors that rely upon communication in a noisy environment.

According to the surveillance data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hearing loss represented the 11 percent of non-fatal recordable injuries in 2004-2008. Manufacturers of hearing protection devices and testing laboratories have been surveyed prior to the proposed rule publication. The information was used to estimate the costs for testing of new products according to the updated regulation. As well, the projections served to aid EPA in estimating the costs for the market as a whole and whether the timeline for testing was economically feasible.

The research results derived from this project have been submitted to the EPA for the development of the proposed regulation for labeling hearing protection devices. The research has been coordinated with manufacturers of hearing protection, US military hearing conservation and communication research programs and testing laboratories both in the US and internationally.

Furthermore, the research has been used to provide guidance to the International Standards Organization through NIOSH’s participation in the international standards process. The American National Standards Institute Accredited standards committee for noise (S12) is an integral partner with NIOSH to translate our research into acoustical standards that the EPA has incorporated into its proposed regulation.

The development of a new hearing protector regulation will establish new national policy and NIOSH will remain an integral part through its research and recommendations for using the EPA’s regulation to predict exposure and protect workers from the harmful effects of noise.



Page last updated: June 3, 2011
Page last reviewed: May 23, 2011
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Office of the Director

 

NIOSH Program:

Manufacturing