19 Nov 2019

Nine reasons why your hearing protection efforts could be failing

Employer-led hearing conservation achieves the best results

When it comes to industrial hearing protection, the well-known proverb: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” springs to mind.

In short you can provide your workforce with the best hearing protection money can buy, but you can’t simply expect your employees to use it unless, as their employer, you lead the way. 

Some workers will continually put their own hearing at risk by either incorrectly using the hearing protection equipment you have provided, or not wearing it at all, and here’s why:

1.      Lack of employee engagement

Your workers may not fully understand the long term effects working in a noisy environment could potentially have on their hearing.

OK – so it’s common sense to accept if it’s noisy at work you wear ear plugs or ear muffs. But do your workers really understand the implications and what is expected of them in terms of their commitment to using and wearing the hearing protection you have provided?

Of course, to operate within the law industrial employers must carry out noise assessments. Most international regulations for noise exposure at work state that the loudest noise a person should be exposed to for an 8-hour working day is 85dB.

It’s a good idea to let your workers know that you regularly assess their workplace noise levels, and to show them how their working environment measures up in terms of the 85dB / 8 hours regulation. Make sure they know exactly what they are dealing with, what the risks to their hearing are and why you have taken the trouble to invest in excellent hearing protection equipment for them.

2.      You need to review your choice of hearing protection

There are two main categories for industrial hearing protection – ear plugs or ear muffs/defenders – and depending on your working environment as an employer you need to weigh up all the pros and cons in relation to your unique working environment.

Of course both categories offer several variations.

With ear plugs your three main options are:

⁻         Custom-moulded, re-usable ear plugs that are uniquely pre-formed to fit your workers’ ear canal precisely

⁻         Mouldable foam disposable ear plugs

⁻         Head banded foam ear plugs which are semi-inserted into canals

With ear muffs / defenders:

⁻          There is a wide range of ear muff / defender brands available

⁻          They are made of a sound-attenuating material and have soft ear cushions with a hard outer cup held together by a headband

It’s up to you as the employer to assess your workplace and consider the best options for your unique environment and for your workers. For example ear muffs are often uncomfortable in hot and humid work areas and they can interfere with the wearing of safety glasses. For workers who need to wear prescription glasses muffs may also break the seal between the ear muff and the skin resulting in decreased hearing protection, whereas ear plugs are small and portable. Custom moulded ear plugs are re-usable making them more cost effective and kinder to the environment.

It’s often beneficial to involve your workers when making this choice.

3.      Lack of adequate training

Once engaged and you have chosen appropriate hearing protection for your workforce it is imperative you provide adequate training. Your workers need to know how to use / wear their hearing protection and how to clean and take care of their ear plugs or muffs.

A tool-box talk needn’t take long but can be very effective.

4.      You’re allowing your employees to pay lip-service

It’s no good allowing your workers to pay lip-service to their hearing protection. Many workers wear ill-fitting disposable ear plugs balanced in the ear canal entrance. If they are doing this they need to know they may as well not be wearing any hearing protection at all.

Sometimes workers are tempted to replace their hearing protection with music earphones thinking they are still protected. This is not the case. Music earphones are no substitute for hearing protection and should not be worn to protect against exposure to industrial workplace noise.

Intermittent wearing is another key issue. To get the full benefit of their hearing protection your workers should wear their ear plugs or defenders 100% of the time whilst exposed to industrial noise. Removing their ear plugs or muffs even for a short time, substantially reduces protection.

Time hearing protection moved in 1 hour, with effect on hearing protection used:

Time Removed in 1 hour Maximum 25 dB Protection is reduced to (dB)
1 minute 17
5 minutes 11
10 minutes 8
30 minutes 3
60 minutes 0

     Source:  Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

When it comes to hearing protection allowing box ticking is not good enough – it won’t conserve your workers’ hearing.

5.      There is a lack of understanding around comfort

On average it can take a couple of weeks for a worker to get used to their hearing protection, but they need to know it’s well worth persevering for long term protection.  Of course having a custom-moulded ear plug inside your ear canal when you’ve never worn one before is going to feel a little different, but a two-week settling in period is nothing when it comes to conserving your hearing. As an employer it is important to make it very clear to your workers that this is the type of hearing protection you have chosen for them, because you care about protecting and conserving their hearing for the long-term and that you expect them to persevere through the comfort barrier and wear them consistently.

6.      There is a fear of over-protection

Of course your workers need to be able to protect their ears from industrial noise whilst at the same time being able to communicate effectively with their co-workers and to hear warnings and alarms. Getting the level of protection right is a key consideration for any industrial employer. There is a wide range of comms equipment available with hearing protection equipment to ensure your workers are not over or under-protected. 

7.      There is a fear of infection

Some people are fearful of putting things in or near their ears for fear of infection. You need to take steps as an employer to help your workers avoid infection.  The following should be covered in training and tool-box talks.

Cleaning re-usable custom moulded ear plugs is easy as they are made of medical grade silicon which prevents dirt sticking to them. Wearers should squeeze out and wipe off any ear wax, then simply wash their ear plugs with hand soap after washing hands, and dry with a paper towel.

Workers need to know that handling disposable ear plugs and putting them in and taking them out during the course of the working day with dirty fingers should be avoided.

Washable ear muffs should be disassembled regularly for cleaning with a mild liquid detergent in warm water and then they need to be rinsed in clear warm water ensuring the sound-attenuating material inside the ear cushions does not get wet. A soft brush should be used to remove skin, oil and dirt that can harden the ear cushions if left. Excess moisture should be squeezed from the muffs before they are placed on a clean surface to air dry.

8.      There is a lack of inspection & record keeping

Employers needs to carry out regular inspections to ensure their workers are adhering to their end of the bargain when it comes to using their hearing protection equipment. It is recommended the employer keeps track of which workers have been issued with what, in terms of hearing protection and how each employee is maintaining / cleaning their ear plugs / muffs. It is good to have a record showing the results of inspections, to show how seriously individual employees are taking their hearing conservation.

9.      You have no effective Hearing Conservation Programme in place

If you’re going to invest in quality hearing protection for your workers you need to make sure it is taken seriously by everyone.

The best hearing protection results tend to be achieved when the employer takes the lead by putting a ‘Hearing Conservation Programme’ in place that involves:

·         Carrying out adequate noise assessment of the entire working environment

·         Choosing the most appropriate hearing protection for the workplace and its workers

·         Delivering clear and effective employee training and education

·         Paying attention to hygiene and maintenance.

·         Carrying out regular inspection and record keeping
·         Communicating with employees about their hearing protection and involving them  

Contact us, we are happy to help… 

ProtectHear are the UK’s leading custom moulded ear plug specialists and their technicians are on hand Monday to Friday, during normal office hours, to help if you would like any further information about the ear plugs themselves, the comms accessories, the ProtectHear moulding process or the ‘try-before-you-buy’ trial that is currently available to new customers.

Please call ProtectHear on 01507 604322, email them at enquiries@protecthear.co.uk, or submit an online enquiry form.

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26 Jul 2019

Noise Surveys

When is a noise survey appropriate?

It is important that noise surveys are carried out to identify where in the workplace noise issues could occur and protect workers affected in those areas. It is important to assess workers movements around the workplace too. Some workers may spend long periods of their working shifts in noisy areas and noisy tools, whereas others have less or no need to go into the noise exposure zones. This means employers may need to introduce different hearing protection with different attenuation levels across the workforce, so that people are not under/over protected.

Noise levels can change over time due to additional machinery in the workplace or some type of change in work routine. As an employer it is important to ensure you keep on top of your noise assessments, it is recommend that noise surveys are carried out every 2 years.

Around 17% of adults in the UK are affected by Hearing loss which is approximately 11 million people, with 23,000 people from 2015-2018 having work-related hearing loss.

Measuring Noise

When a workplace is due a noise survey, it is recommended a trained noise assessor is appointed to come into the workplace. Initially they will determine if noise testing is necessary. Then, if it is, they would use specialist noise measuring equipment that is fit-for-this purpose. This exercise can vary dependant on the working environment. The instruments used can vary too.  For example the Assessor may use ‘dosimeter’ – a specialised sound level meter intended specifically to measure the noise exposure of a person integrated over a period of time used for personal noise exposures. This device can be worn during a work shift to determine the levels of noise during the work; this can also be positioned in the workplace where the noise levels are a concern, to record the noise levels over time.  They may also use a ‘Sound Level Meter’ (SLM). An SLM is used to measure general noise levels in areas, this device can be used for noises such as industrial tools /equipment, noise from across boundaries and humming.

What’s the law on noise levels?

When noise levels reach 80 decibels employers must consider their workers’ health and safety and provide information and training for employees. Whereas when the noise level reaches 85 decibels, it is mandatory that employers provide their workers with a suitable form of hearing protection. There are 3 types of hearing protection that can be used, disposable ear plugs, ear defenders or custom made ear plugs.

What’s the best kind of protection for a noisy workplace?

We believe custom ear plugs are the best option for most noisy workplaces across industry. For example when workers wear disposable ear plugs or ear defenders they may protect them from the loud noises, but they also block out their awareness. However, there is a fine line between over/under protecting your workers’ ears.  Custom ear plugs are the hearing protection of choice for those employers that need to block out harmful noises for their workers, whilst enabling them to hear important warnings, alarms and conversations. Custom ear plugs are made from a soft hypoallergenic silicone, providing comfort therefore making them wearable all day.   

Not only do custom ear plugs help your employees, but they also help your budgets. With a 5 year lifespan you could see a payback period of 18-24 months compared to disposables. We are so confident our custom made ear plugs won’t disappoint, that we offer a ‘Try Before you Buy’ option.  You can trial ear plugs for up to 10 people for an 8 week period, with full support from the ProtectHear® team.

Contact us, we are happy to help…

Whilst ProtectHear® do not carry out noise surveys, our team are happy to help you with advice concerning any noise survey queries you may have, to ensure your workers are receiving the correct protection. 

If you would like to book a ‘Try Before you Buy’ trial please call us on 01507 604322 during 9am-5pm office hours, email enquiries@protecthear.co.uk, or submit a ‘contact us’ form via our website.

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13 Jun 2019

Communication and Hearing Protection

Communication & Hearing Protection

Protecting the hearing of workers by blocking out noise is only part of the challenge for industrial business owners. Of course the elimination of ALL noise is rarely the most appropriate answer. More often than not it is important that factory operatives and other industrial workers can hear their fellow workers and communicate effectively with them during their shifts. It is also often imperative that they are able to hear warning signals and alerts in and around their working environment. These kinds of challenges vary from sector to sector and site to site in industry.

Hearing Protection Challenges

For example – ATEX is the name commonly given to the two European Directives for controlling explosive atmospheres. ATEX safety equipment has been approved for explosive environments – i.e. areas that contain combustible dusts, flammable gases or vapours. ProtectHear® offers a range of products, branded SpeakHear®, that solve these kinds of challenges, including  a range of ATEX approved accessories to accommodate customers that need to comply with these safety regulations.

The SpeakHear® Range of Communication Accessories

There is a full range of SpeakHear® communication accessories on offer for ProtectHear® custom moulded, vented ear plugs.  The SpeakHear® range is compatible with well-known brands of industrial communication equipment such as Motorola, Hytera, Kenwood, Icom, Maxon, Simoco, Hytera, Yaseu and many more.  SpeakHear® systems offer communication options for listen only, two-way systems or boom mic systems, with noise cancelling technology, and some are connectable to mobile and DECT phones (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology Phones).

Many Advantages for Factories & Other Industrial Sites

The SpeakHear® range offers many great advantages, i.e. wearers can have full communication with colleagues despite wearing a pair of ear plugs. There are options that will allow them to hear conversations, warnings and alarms. They can also communicate with colleagues over radio or phone, whilst being fully protected.

If ProtectHear® hasn’t got your communication accessory in stock they will source them for you, subject to certain conditions. If the communication accessory required is outside of your budget ProtectHear® can offer a wide range of alternative comms solutions to accommodate your needs.

Try Before You Buy

You can trial ProtectHear earplugs for an 8 week period within your organisation’s unique environment, for up to 10 people. You may be able to include the comms as part of the trial too.

Would you like to know more?

The ProtectHear specialist team can provide you with information and best advice on a wide range of comms accessories, as well as their custom moulded ear plugs.  Contact us now via on online form, or by calling 01507 604322 for more information or to book an appointment. 

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13 May 2019

Hearing Loss, What Impact Does It Have On Your Wellbeing?

How does hearing loss affect us?

It is well documented that people with hearing loss are more likely to experience emotional distress and loneliness. The condition is said to double the risk of developing depression and  sufferers are twice as likely to develop dementia.

Hearing loss can have a highly detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, both physically and emotionally. Sufferers are less likely to participate in social activities and it may have a negative impact on their working lives. This often leads to a loss of confidence, spending less time with friends/family and more time feeling isolated.

The scale of hearing loss in Britain

Hearing loss affects an estimated 17% of adults in the UK. This equates to 11 million people so 1 in 6 of of this country’s population. This figure is projected to climb to 1 in 5 by 2025. Forty percent of people aged 50+ are affected and 1 in 10 of us suffer from Tinnitus.

The main causes of hearing loss

There are several different reasons why people might lose their hearing. Sudden hearing loss in one ear may be down to earwax, an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. Sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medication. Gradual loss of hearing in one ear may be due to fluid inside the ear, bone growth (Otosclerosis) or a build up of skin cells (Cholesteatoma). Gradual loss of hearing in both ears is usually caused by ageing or exposure to loud / persistent noise over a period of time.

Preventing hearing loss

There are a number of things individuals can do to protect our hearing such as not exposing ourselves to excessive noise in our social lives, not inserting things into our ears (fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool etc.) However, as business owners providing ear protection for workers exposed to consistent levels of industrial noise is a must.

Disposable ear plugs, ear defenders and moulded ear plugs are the main types of hearing protection available.

ProtectHear Moulded Ear Plugs

ProtectHear® is a custom moulded ear plug that does not over protect or under protect the ears because the passive, acoustic filter allows safe noise to pass through. This means when wearing these uniquely moulded ear plugs your workers can still have conversations with colleagues and hear warning sounds, without jeopardising their ear protection. ProtectHear®  moulded ear plugs have a 5-year lifespan, making them incredibly cost-effective.  There are options available to integrate factory radio communications with them too.

ProtectHear® offer a ‘Try Before you Buy’ for up to 10 people for an 8-week trial period.

Call us week days between 9am and 5.30pm on 01507 604322.  Or contact us online if you would like to book an appointment or a have discussion about ProtectHear® moulded ear plugs.

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12 Apr 2019

Vented vs Solid Ear plugs

Vented vs Solid Ear plugs

Depending on your unique working environment, different levels of protection may be required in different working situations. With ProtectHear® you have a choice of Vented vs Solid ear plugs, and both are suitable for different reasons.

Vented ear plugs

ProtectHear® vented ear plugs are a 29 SNR (Single Number Rating) product. This attenuates noises to a safe level, allowing users to hear warnings, alarms and conversation. Operatives can work safely and effectively whilst not being over protected nor under protected. With the vented system wearers can connect communication accessories to the ear plugs, so they can communicate via phone/radio. Vented ear plugs are seen as the best solution when needing to hear colleagues/warnings. Hence they are great for teams working together. ProtectHear® 29 SNR ear plugs are ideal for working environments such as Rail, Engineering and Steel.

Solid ear plugs

ProtectHear® solid ear plugs are a 31 SNR (Single Number Rating) product. They block out more of the external noise in the industrial environment. This product is used in higher noise environments to give better protection, lessening the noise your workers can hear. The performance level of solid ear plugs is similar to the protection your workers would get from a pair of ear defenders. Solid ear plugs are used for environments with particularly high noise levels, such as ship engine compartments and compressor houses.

Let’s get Technical

For our vented ear plugs ProtectHear® use a design which allows air to pass through the ear plugs carrying the external noise as sound waves, before entering a passive acoustic filter. Whereas solid ear plugs have no vent or filter, so do not allow air or external noise to pass through the ear plug.

Both products are CE Marked to EN 352-2:1993 and tested by Salford University School of Acoustics. You can find more detailed technical information here, regarding the difference in attenuation ratings.

Communicate Safely

You can communicate with ProtectHear® vented ear plugs through conversation with colleagues whilst in a noisy environment. There is no need to take out your hearing protection and be exposed to the noise. As well as conversations with ProtectHear® vented you can communicate through radios/phones, ProtectHear® supply a wide range of communication accessories called SpeakHear®.

ProtectHear® solid has no vent giving you extra protection but communication accessories cannot be connected.

What are the advantages?

Whether you choose vented or solid, ProtectHear® ear plugs give users maximum comfort, with a great fit and allows the ears to ‘breathe’. ProtectHear® ear plugs can be worn with all types of Personal Protective Equipment such as hard hats and safety glasses. With a 5 year lifespan there are significant cost savings to be had compared to disposable earplugs, calculate your savings on our cost savings calculator here.

Take our Trial

For any Health & Safety Executive considering vented vs solid ear plugs, don’t Forget if you’re unsure which option would suit for your factory environment best, you can trial ProtectHear®.  The trial is for an 8 week period within your organisation’s unique environment, and you can include up to 10 people to participate.

Contact us now to find out more about ProtectHear® products/services. You can book your no obligation ‘Try Before you Buy’ trial today.

Read our full terms and conditions here.

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19 Mar 2019

ProtectHear® Ear Plugs Offer Five Years’ Mileage

ProtectHear® Ear plugs Offer Five Years’ Mileage


ProtectHear® custom ear plugs are designed to have a lifespan of five years. Like all areas of the body our ears change shape over time.  Through many years of perfecting our product the fit and integrity of your ProtectHear® ear plugs is guaranteed for 5 years. Made from a soft hypoallergenic silicone (shore hardness 25) it is the softest custom hearing protection on the market. We offer factory tool-box talks too, ensuring workers’ look after their ear plugs so they last the full five years. We also have a video on our website, with tips on how to take care of your ProtectHear® ear plugs.

Are ProtectHear® ear plugs good for the environment?

With a lifespan of 5 years 1 pair of custom ear plugs equates to a potential 4800 pairs of disposables ending up in landfill. Industry average shows that workers tend to use up to 4 pairs of disposables per day, for various reasons. With over 240 working days in a year by 5 years, this means we are looking at 4800 pairs per worker. Multiply this up by your workforce then the whole of UK industry and the size of the impact on the environment becomes apparent. ProtectHear® ear plugs are toxilogically inert too, which is far better for the environment.

There are significant cost savings to be made too!

With so many disposables used over a 5 year period compared to one set of custom ear plugs, there are significant cost savings that can be made. In fact on average ProtectHear® can save approximately £400 per employee over 5 years, by switching from disposables. You can use our Cost Savings Calculator to forecast your savings.

What are the Warranty Terms?

ProtectHear® custom ear plugs are warranted for the full 5 year lifespan of the product. The only time this may not be the case is if damage is caused as a result of misuse of the product. This does not affect your statutory rights under Consumer Law.

Don’t just take our word for it; this is what EDF Energy had to say…

“I prefer ProtectHear® to disposable ear plugs as they are very easy to fit and comfortable in use. An added bonus is the cost savings are genuine compared to disposables. When you start to do the maths in comparison to using 4-5 pairs of disposable earplugs a day the money saving over the life span of ProtectHear® becomes quite significant.”Shaun Penn EDF Energy Ltd.

Can my Company trial ProtectHear® ear plugs?

Yes, ProtectHear® offer a ‘Try Before you Buy’ where up to 10 people can be trialed over an 8 week period. If you decide to move forward with the product, then we would invoice you for the trial and book an appointment to take impressions for the rest of your workforce. If you wish to return the ear plugs then there will be no costs incurred at all.

How can I arrange an appointment?  

You can contact a member of our team on 01507 604322 who will be able to arrange an appointment for you.

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