The Invisible Hazard

Contributor: Soundtrace

Did you know Hearing Protection Devices do not prevent hearing loss—they only reduce the risk of hearing loss? Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common occupational disease and the second most self-reported occupational illness or injury. In the manufacturing sector, occupational hearing loss accounts for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why is hearing loss so prevalent? First, noise is everywhere and the only thing constant about noise is that it constantly changes. In the early 1980s, OSHA established a Hearing Conservation Program (1910.95) for companies that had noise exposure levels of 85 decibels or higher on an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The Hearing Conservation Program was created with the intent to protect employees from hearing loss. Unfortunately, 40 years later, hearing loss remains a leading occupational injury every year due to a lack of hearing protection innovation.

To put things in perspective, when the Hearing Conservation Program was written, the internet hadn’t been invented. The recommended monitoring equipment from the 1980s is still considered the “standard” equipment in 2022.

To OSHA’s credit, they listed monitoring as the first requirement in the Hearing Conservation Program. Employers are required to monitor sound levels if employees are exposed to 85 decibels over an 8-hour period or 83 decibels over a 10-hour period. Repeated measurements are required whenever a change of production, process, equipment, or controls increases noise exposure or noise levels. Monitoring is also required when additional employees such as new hires are exposed to hazardous noise levels. OSHA wrote the noise monitoring requirements in a way that repeat monitoring should occur on an ongoing basis to stay current with the constantly evolving work environment.

Until now, the available monitoring equipment proved time-consuming and manual, making it inefficient for companies to keep up with. Traditionally, the tools to measure and monitor occupational decibel levels are the sound level meter or noise dosimeter. Sound level meters and noise dosimeters that meet OSHA requirements record accurate sound levels but are limited to time and place measurements forcing employers to estimate employee noise exposure. Estimating total daily noise exposure for employees based on limited data is a leading reason why hearing loss is still the #1 occupational injury in the manufacturing industry.

Noise hazards are no different than hazards like radiation. The more exposure, the greater the risk of injury or illness. Unlike noise, radiation monitoring equipment does not rely on estimation but rather monitors daily to prevent overexposure. Real-time daily monitoring has proved to be an effective method to protect employees, so why not do the same for noise?

Invented by Soundtrace daily and real-time noise monitoring is now available. Soundtrace provides a patent-pending ANSI and IEC compliant IoT device and software that measures, monitors, and retains employee noise exposure in real-time providing critical exposure data to the employee and employer.

Soundtrace offers area and personnel Intelligent Sound Monitors that are connected to a software interface for easy and remote visibility to noise exposure data from any device, anywhere at any time. Soundtrace delivers visibility to the invisible, making it the first line of defense to proactively protect employees from noise-induced hearing loss.