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Work Around Air Compressors? Protect Your Ears

By In Tips On July 28, 2016


If you work in a noisy field like construction, manufacturing, or mining, you probably work with very loud equipment, like air compressors, on a regular basis. The constant noise isn’t just annoying-it can also be dangerous. You need to understand what the risks are so you can protect yourself and any employees that you are responsible for.

If you’re not sure how noise affects your hearing and your health, read on. This blog can teach you what the dangers are and how to avoid them so you and your employees can be safe on the job.

How Does Noise Affect Your Hearing?

When you hear a sound, the sound waves are pushing on tiny bones inside your ear and causing them to vibrate. The vibrations travel through your inner ear, or the cochlea, which is a spiraling passage filled with liquid.

The cochlea is also lined with miniscule hairs, which turn the vibrations into nerve impulses. In other words, these hairs transform vibrations into something your brain can interpret as sound. Given the tiny size of the bones and the hairs that make your ears work, this is a very delicate process.

Exposure to a very loud noise causes those tiny hairs to flatten, making them unable to work. This effect is usually temporary, but it can be permanent-especially if you are continually exposed to loud noise. You can develop tinnitus, which is a ringing in your ears, or you can lose hearing entirely.

Though the most obvious effect of excessive noise is on your ears, it can have other effects as well. Some research shows that people who work in very noisy workplaces are much more likely to develop serious heart disease. The researchers believe this is because excessive noise causes stress, which causes the body to restrict arteries.

How Much Noise Is Too Much?

The federal government’s standard for workplace noise is 85 decibels for 8 hours. If your workplace has a noise level of 85 decibels or above, your employer must act to protect you.

You cannot measure the noise level in decibels on your own without special equipment, but there are warning signs of too much noise in the workplace:

  • Your ears ring when you leave.
  • You have to yell to talk to someone two or three feet away.
  • You feel like sounds are muffled, flat, or dull after you leave work.

If you experience these warning signs, you need to take action to protect your hearing, regardless of whether your employer measures your workplace volume at 85 decibels or not. If you are a manager or an employer, make sure to take steps to protect your employees’ hearing.

What Can I Do?

The best thing you can do is to get management involved. If possible, your company should replace the current equipment with quieter equipment or service a machine that is making too much noise. If possible, you might look into separating workers from whatever is making the noise by moving them into another room.

However, in noisy businesses like mining and construction, you may not be able to take these steps. Employees may have to deal with very loud machinery like air compressors constantly. This doesn’t mean that nothing can be done, though.

Look into getting ear protection, which lessens the amount of noise entering the ear to acceptable levels. There are many kinds of protection, and you’ll have to choose what’s best for your situation depending on the work being done and what feels comfortable. After all, if protective gear isn’t comfortable, people won’t wear it consistently and it won’t be helpful.

No matter what kind of ear protection you choose, make sure you or your employees know how to use it correctly. If the protection doesn’t fit properly or is used incorrectly, it won’t work. Look at the following list to get a general overview of your ear protection options.

Foam Plugs

Foam plugs are easy to use, generally comfortable, and available in many sizes. They are also cheap and don’t interfere with work. However, they are not reusable, and they may not fit everyone. The shape of some people’s ear canals just don’t work with foam plugs.

Molded Plugs

These are basically a nicer version of foam plugs. They are usually made of silicon or rubber instead of foam, which means that if they’re washed, they can be reused many times. Molded plugs have the same advantages as foam plugs in that they come in many sizes, stay out of the workers’ way, and are often comfortable.

If you choose this option, make sure that you or your employees are sized properly for molded plugs. Some people will need different sizes for each ear, and some may still not be able to use them.

Earmuffs

These are comfortable, easy to use, and can be seen by management, which means that workers are more likely to use them. One size will fit most people, which is convenient. However, earmuffs may get in the way, especially for people with glasses, and they may be uncomfortable if it’s hot.

When deciding on ear protection for employees under you, you might consider offering options. As long as the employees use some kind of ear protection, and they use it consistently and correctly, it doesn’t matter which kind.
If you work with noisy air compressors and would like help, contact Compressor-Pump & Service, Inc. We can help you find a quieter model or service your existing one to stop excessive noise.


About the Author

enelson@compressor-pump.com

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