Hearing loss caused by work is preventable, but once your hearing has gone it will not come back. Around 17,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions caused by excessive noise at work. There are different products on the market available for protecting your hearing in the workplace, depending on your environment, the job you are doing and the length of time you are doing the job. Each ear protection product has an SNR rating.
Signal-to-noise ratio (abbreviated SNR or S/N) is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of the desired signal to the level of background noise and is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power, often expressed in decibels.
As this is just a guide, if you are doing a specific task or job that you need a specific type of hearing protection or a specific protection level as noise levels can vary so dramatically. An audit may need to be given by your health and safety manager or training can be provided by an industry expert to distinguish what level of protection is needed for a specific job.
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For example, two factories might be using the same machinery but in the first factory, the volumes are much lower as they have their machine placed on a softer surface which would mean the volumes emitted are much lower, alternatively their machine might be much newer which again could mean a difference in the noise levels produced.
Hearing protection is calculated depending on how much exposure someone has to noise, you might have two people doing the same job/application but the first person is exposed to this volume for 15 minutes per day and the second person is exposed to the same volume for 4 hours per day. Even though they are exposed to the same level of noise the hearing protection required could vary as hearing protection is calculated by a person's daily or weekly exposure to noise.
Protective equipment can also vary depending on the application; ear defenders or earmuffs are available, as well as corded, moulded or loose earplugs.
Every person’s ear canal is individual to them as is their hearing protection. It is essential to get the right fit, the right protection and understand how to maintain your ear plugs/ear defenders.
To select the correct protection, consideration of the frequency, pitch and intensity of the noise hazard is essential. Selecting ear protection for your industry varies on the application and what level of noise hazard you will be exposed to. Music, construction and airport workers are exposed to different noise and therefore have very different requirements. Within food and drink factories earplugs are bright so that they can be easily found if accidentally dropped. There are many ear plugs/defenders specially designed for musicians so that the full range of frequencies can be heard and there are specialist hearing protectors for use during firearms practice
The article above provides a guide to why you should wear the right ear protection to suit your environment. We would always recommend having a consultation with a PPE expert to ensure you and your staff are wearing the correct ear defenders or ear plugs to suit them and their job.
You can download our guide to the right protection for different decibel levels by clicking the link below.