Today we’re looking at another brand new product from 3M, who remain steadfast in their mission to push innovation forward in the labor world. Today’s product is the PELTOR CH-5 High Attentuation Headset.
The immediate question, of course, is “What the heck is attenuation? All these Google results are about yeast.” Well, let’s start with yeast. Within a baking context, “attenuation is the percentage of sugars yeast consume during fermentation.” Something similar is happening here, in seconds rather than hours. When sound hits the hearing protection, a certain percentage of it goes through while the rest (hopefully) is muffled. The degree to which this happens is also called attenuation, and is expressed with a noise reduction rating (NRR) assigned to each product.
A product with an NRR of 20 is lab-rated to absorb 20 decibels of sound. Keep in mind that that’s under absolute optimum conditions in a controlled environment; extenuating factors in the workplace will inevitably make the rating decrease. That being said, it’s still a good metric to use when deciding what protection to buy. I’ve seen a variety of formulas used to determine how much actual protection you’re getting, but they seem too harsh in the calculation, and the fact that there are differences of opinion in the first place makes me take it all with a grain of salt, as should you. Suffice to say that, under ideal real-world conditions, you should be able to get about 70-75% of the attenuation indicated by a product’s NRR.
Which brings us to the CH-5. What makes it special? Well, its NRR is 31 which is almost unheard of in this industry. Even in the field with its inevitable lowering effect, that’s an impressive performance. 3M knows this, and has designed this product with the noisiest environments in mind, from airstrips to battlefields. Anywhere with big machinery, heavy-duty processes, and the attendant deafening noise is just the environment where these babies should be deployed. The deep cups leave plenty of room for the ears, while the headband is designed to exert minimal pressure and discomfort, making it easy to wear for hours.
And if that wasn’t enough, they also feature a watertight noise-cancelling boom mic. Its presence would seem to imply that this is an active protection product, which I initially assumed. However, I don’t see any language in the promo that describes level-dependent technology like what we’ve discussed before, so it’s not clear what exactly the mic is doing. Is it just for picking up your voice and piping it into a radio, or does it allow human speech through like the level-dependent products we’ve seen before? All 3M’s site says is that it “enables critical communication,” only mentioning “external radio communication sources.” Based on that, I figure it definitely doesn’t have a level-dependent element. Keep that in mind when you shop.
The CH-5 promises to be a fantastic addition to the PELTOR family of products, and a simple choice for employers trying to build a comprehensive hearing protection program for noisy environments, without breaking the bank.