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Manufacturing is hard on our hearing. Machines rotate, pound, cut and grind, producing sound in ear-threatening volume.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) recommends that manufacturers design their machinery to produce less noise and protect the hearing of their workers. That’s all well and good, but some jobs are just going to get noisy — you can’t run a jackhammer without hammering steel against concrete, after all.
That’s one of the reasons why Motorola Solutions partnered with manufacturing giant 3M to address the risks to workers in noisy environments. Among its vast catalog of industrial products, 3M sells the Peltor brand of headsets that protect hearing. 3M got together with Motorola Solutions to make sure its headsets connect to Motorola’s two-way radios.
Inside an ear-protection headset
The PMLN6089 headset from Motorola Solutions includes a hardhat with attached 3M Peltor technology — dual muffs and a boom microphone. Here’s a look at the main features:
Note that not all ear-protecting headsets are two-way: Some are listen-only models that allow messages to be communicated to workers but do not let them reply.
Muffs are not the only option for ear protection. One 3M Peltor headset model inserts a tiny speaker into an earplug and includes a bar that goes behind the head and is attached to a boom microphone (style-conscious pop musicians often use similar gear for their live performances).
Understanding the science of hearing loss
This is the way OSHA describes the mechanism of the human ear and how we are at risk from loud noises:
“When sound waves enter the outer ear, the vibrations impact the ear drum and are transmitted to the middle and inner ear. In the middle ear three small bones called the malleus (or hammer), the incus (or anvil), and the stapes (or stirrup) amplify and transmit the vibrations generated by the sound to the inner ear.
“The inner ear contains a snail-like structure called the cochlea which is filled with fluid and lined with cells with very fine hairs. These microscopic hairs move with the vibrations and convert the sound waves into nerve impulses — the result is the sound we hear.
“Exposure to loud noise can destroy these hair cells and cause hearing loss!”
Protecting hearing over the long haul
Large manufacturers understand they have a vested interest in preserving the hearing of their employees now and in the future.
“We are helping to protect employees’ hearing so they can live a full and productive life well into their retirement and so employers can benefit greatly by significantly reducing their liabilities for work-related injuries,” said Nick Candotti, Director of Global Accessory & Energy Business for Motorola Solutions, in a blog post on the company’s website.
How loud is that? A noise-level comparison
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a noise meter to compare various sound levels in decibels. Here’s a sampling from quietest to loudest:
Normal conversation: 60 dB
Power lawn mower: 90 dB
Belt sander: 93 dB
Impact wrench: 103 dB
Spray painter: 105 dB
Jackhammer: 110 dB
Ambulance siren: 120 dB
Jet engine at takeoff: 140 dB
Rocket Launch: 180 dB