Introduction to Hearing Protection

The landscape of the safety industry is complex, with an abundance of variations on a core group of products and concepts that can be paralyzingly overwhelming to even look at, let alone navigate. How is the average everyman supposed to know what he needs when the market is glutted with options that all seem the same? There are dozens if not hundreds of blogs out there to help guide the consumer towards the purchasing choice that’s best for them, and it’s anyone’s guess if reviving this blog will contribute meaningfully to that conversation. But here at Enviro we try to make it a point to reach out to the consumer base and help them determine what they need. We’ve organized our site to sort products into the most prominent categories that the industry recognizes, and we partner with the finest brands in the industry so that you get only the best. One of our most popular categories is hearing protection, which has been receiving a lot more attention lately.

Hearing protection has gone underrecognized and underregulated for decades, and labor environments have only been getting louder. Multiple generations of workers have suffered permanent damage to their hearing systems that could have been avoided if protection were emphasized in their workplace. OSHA’s estimate is that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise annually, and that $242 million goes toward hearing disability comp. That’s money down the drain! Thankfully, interest in the hazards of occupational noise exposure is increasing, and we’re seeing more proactivity towards conserving the hearing of the working class.

So at what point is noise dangerous? The medium that carries sound from its source to your ear is air (that’s why you can’t hear anything in outer space), and the volume of sound is measured in decibels, the difference in air pressure that is created when a sound wave is present. Every hearing protection product has a noise reduction rating (NRR) that approximates how many decibels are subtracted from the sound entering the ear when the product is being used correctly.

There are many brands out there that offer hearing protection, but 3M is the one that we carry that has the largest presence on the site and draws the most enthusiastic response. 3M is one of the titans of the research/development world, and the innovations that come out of their labs are second to none. A few months ago their E-A-R EasyTouch earplugs hit the market, which feature a winning combination of comfortable thermoplastic resin coating and polypropylene stem that allows the worker to push it into the ear and find the perfect fit, without worrying about contamination. If you prefer the classic model, we also carry standard roll-down earplugs in a wide array of styles and functionalities.

Where our inventory really shines, in my opinion, is in earmuffs and headsets. This is where you can see some of that overwhelming variety I mentioned before. The most important distinction to know, however, is that between active and passive hearing protection. Earplugs and most earmuffs are passive: they block out all sounds, including those you might want to hear, such as conversation. Active hearing protection has a sophisticated, hypersensitive inner system that measures how loud sounds in the area are and selectively mutes those that are above a certain decibel threshold. I’ll get more into the exciting particulars of these products in future posts.

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