OSHA Designates October As Hearing Protection Month

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is highlighting the importance of hearing loss prevention during the month of October, which is designated as Protect Your Hearing Month. NIOSH has enlisted a training mannequin named Nick to aid in teaching young people and their families about preventing noise-induced hearing loss, and they even provide instructions for building your own training mannequin.

People are exposed to hazardous noise both in the workplace and in their private lives. Many occupations involve working in noisy environments, and 33% of all people who are exposed to hazardous noise at work will develop noise-related hearing loss as a result of this exposure. A 25 year old working at farming or carpentry can have the hearing of a 50 year old due to working with noise producing equipment and tools. A study of high school boys who live or work on farms found that over 30% had hearing loss.

One of the greatest dangers associated with hearing loss is that it creates safety and health risks. Inability to hear warning sounds to dangerous situations could increase chances of injury or death. In addition, being exposed to excessive noise can be stressful and tiring, which affects overall health, even sometimes raising a person’s blood pressure. Being tired or stressed on a job can lead to increased accidents or injury as well. Once hearing loss occurs, it is permanent, but hearing loss can be prevented!

NIOSH has been using a mannequin named Nick to educate students, teachers, workers and their families across the country on how to protect their hearing. The program using Nick targets farmers in particular, but provides a good educational tool for a more general audience as well. Nick is equipped with a sound level meter that is wired to a microphone in his silicon “ear” to measure sound levels of personal music players. Nick provides an accessible way for people to learn about noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace. In conjunction with the use of Nick the mannequin for the NIOSH training programs, two companion brochures are also distributed. “They’re Your Ears, Protect them: Hearing Loss Caused by Farm Noise is Preventable” helps increase awareness about the relationship of farm noise and early onset tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss in young farmers. “Have You Heard? Hearing Loss Caused by Farm Noise is Preventable: Young Farmers’ Guide for Selecting Using and Hearing Protection” provides information on hearing protection that is available and how to use it. The information provided in the accompanying training brochures is relevant to many occupations besides farming.

For those who may have or wish to develop their own educational programs related to hearing loss prevention in schools or elsewhere, NIOSH provides instructions on how to build your own mannequin like Nick for around$100 plus the cost of a mannequin. The directions are available at the Dangerous Decibels website. For more information on the prevention of hearing loss in the workplace visit the NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention topic page.