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Webinar: Using Technology to Advance your Hearing Conservation Program

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Key Takeaways

Technology can help us collect information about workers hearing exposure and their surroundings to help make better decisions.

Industrial workers are individuals with unique hearing protection needs. Differences in fit, job requirements, communication needs, and personal preferences influence the selection of hearing protection and the successful use of that product. Technology can help us collect information about workers hearing exposure and their surroundings to help make better decisions. Gathering this worker-specific data can make hearing loss prevention easier and more effective.

[Webinar Transcription]

Tiffany:Hello, and a warm welcome to everybody. We would like to wish everyone a good morning, a good afternoon, or a good evening, depending on where you are in the world. My name is Tiffany, and I'm a part of Safeopedia. Safeopedia’s mission is to support the EHS professionals, operational folks, and any safety-minded individuals with free safety information, tools and education. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to those dedicated professionals for the great work they do on a daily basis.

Just a reminder, the webinar is being recorded, and we’ll send out a link to the recording to everybody in a few days. This webinar is for you, the audience, so we'll keep it interactive. Get your questions into the GoToWebinar console as we go, and we'll get to them at the end of the presentation. Today, we are proud to present, “Using Technology to Advance Your Hearing Conservation Program”, presented by Honeywell.

It is now absolutely my pleasure to introduce to you today's presenter Jackie Difrancesco. Jackie Difrancesco is Deputy Lab Manager of the Howard Leight Acoustical hearing laboratory for — Acoustical Testing Laboratory for Honeywell Safety Products USA, Inc., a global leader in hearing conservation solutions. At Honeywell, she's involved with testing hearing protectors to regional test protocols and ongoing research to support product development and expand the profession’s knowledge base. She is an audiologist doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut. Jackie has experience in clinical audiology, industrial audiology, and is a certified occupational hearing conservationist. Her research interests include finding better hearing protection solutions for workers with hearing loss.

We're also fortunate today to be joined by Marc Kirsch, Product Manager at Honeywell for the Q&A session. I am very grateful to have you sit back, relax and enjoy this webinar. With that, Jackie, please take it away.

Jackie:Alrighty, thank you and thanks everyone for joining us today. So, we're going to talk about ways you can use technology to advance your hearing conservation program.

So, we'll start with why and when you need a hearing conservation program, the elements that should be included, some challenges you may face, and some different technologies that can help.

So, why do you need a hearing conservation program? Well, it's the same reason we put all sorts of different safety measures in place at work because employees should go home at the end of the day in the same condition they started. When it comes to occupational noise exposure, we want to protect workers from the damaging effects of noise, starting with the prevention of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is an invisible injury. You can't see it, there may not be any pain or discomfort when it happens, and it tends to progress slowly over time. For these reasons, it can take some time before workers recognize that they're losing their hearing, and they wait even longer to do something about it. Noise induced hearing loss is permanent and can have devastating effects on one's quality of life. Having a proper hearing conservation program in place helps to prevent hearing loss from starting and to catch any changes early so that further damage can be prevented. If someone already has hearing loss, we want to be sure to protect their residual hearing. You never want to hear the excuse, “Oh, I already lost my hearing. I don't need to wear a protection.”

We also want to prevent tinnitus. Tinnitus is that ringing in the ears that sometimes follows a noisy event. It often starts as a temporary sensation but can become permanent. And much like hearing loss, the effects can range from annoying to completely debilitating. Noise has also been associated with other negative consequences like elevated stress levels and even cardiovascular issues, so we definitely want to avoid those.

A hearing conservation program can also help verify that your hearing protection efforts are working. The hearing conservation program contains checks to ensure that your efforts to reduce noise exposure are having the intended effect, or it can help pinpoint a weak spot that needs attention. If those aren't enough reasons, well, it's required by law. So, when do you need a hearing conservation program?

For this presentation, I'll be using examples from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US. Depending on where you live, or the industry you work in, you may follow other regulations, or you may have more specific workplace policies. But OSHA says that you must implement a hearing conservation program when any employee’s noise exposure reaches the action level.

So, this action level occurs when an employee is exposed to an eight-hour time weighted average of greater than or equal to 85 dBA. So, an eight-hour time weighted average is a worker’s noise exposure level when averaged over the entire eight-hour workday. It takes into account the noisy periods as well as the quiet periods. When this average reaches 85, you must take action and implement a hearing conservation program. 85 dBA is also considered a 50% noise dose for the workday as recommended by OSHA. When the time weighted average reaches 90 dBA, this is considered a 100% noise dose and is also known as the Permissible Exposure Level. This is the maximum amount of noise that workers can be exposed to over the course of the workday.

OSHA lays out the elements that they expect to be included in a hearing conservation program. Noise Monitoring, Audio Metric Testing, Hearing Protection, Training and Education, and Record Keeping. I'll go over these in more detail beginning with noise monitoring.

Noise monitoring includes measuring the intensity and the duration of noise exposure using a calibrated sound level meter. Intensity is the sound level or loudness, and duration is the length of time that workers are exposed to that level. These two factors work together to determine actual noise exposure or dose.

Noise monitoring can be done by either area monitoring or personal noise monitoring, sometimes known as dosimetry. Area monitoring involves using your sound level meter to take measurements throughout your workplace to see what noise levels are present. These measurements are useful if your noise levels are fairly constant, and your workers are fairly stationary. If workers are mobile or noise levels vary, then personal noise monitoring can be more useful. Personal noise monitoring uses a wearable sound level meter to capture the actual noise exposure of one employee throughout the workday. This exposure can be measured in terms of time weighted average, so the level average over time, or the dose which is the noise exposure expressed as a percentage. OSHA also says you must repeat these measurements whenever a change in production, process, equipment, or controls increases noise exposure.

Second element is Audiometric Testing. This is the testing that we do to monitor employees for hearing loss. Hearing test needs to be performed in an appropriate test environment with calibrated equipment. An appropriate test environment tends to be one that is very quiet. We're trying to measure the softest sound that workers can hear, and we can only do this if the ambient noise levels are very low. We'll talk more about this in a bit.

As part of this hearing evaluation, you should document any relevant medical history, noise exposure information, and use of hearing protection. So, you should ask workers what type of hearing protection they're using and when they are using it. A baseline hearing test or audiogram should be completed before a new employee starts working.

An audiogram is the graph you see to the right that displays the hearing test results. You want to get this baseline audiogram before any noise exposure has occurred. After that, you should repeat the hearing test annually and compare the results back to the baseline to look for any changes. The change we're looking for is the standard threshold shift which involves a little math equation to calculate. If this shift is detected, the employee must be retested within 30 days. And if the shift is confirmed, then you need to revise the baseline audiogram to reflect the changes. So, then the following year, you're comparing back to the newer test to see if any additional changes have occurred. And throughout this process, you're required to notify the employee of all their results.

Element 3 is Hearing Protection. Employers are required to provide a variety of different hearing protectors with suitable attenuation characteristics. So, what is suitable? This is going to depend on your particular workplace and your individual workers. There are many factors to consider, which we'll talk more about later. Hearing protectors must be properly fitted, and the correct use must be demonstrated. So, as part of the hearing conservation program, you need to make sure that workers know how to use their hearing protection properly.

OSHA requires that workers wear hearing protection whenever they exceed that permissible exposure level or a time weighted average of 90 dBA. If a worker has already had a change in their hearing, that standard threshold shift, then they must wear hearing protection at 85 dBA. If noise exposure at your workplace reaches 105 dBA, then workers need to wear double protection, which means wearing an earmuff over earplugs.

Training also needs to be completed prior to beginning work and then annually. Training should include the effects of noise on hearing, the purpose of hearing protectors, some advantages, disadvantages and attenuation of various types, and information on the selection, fitting, use and care of hearing protectors. And again, the proper use should be demonstrated so that you can be confident that workers are protected. Training should also include an explanation of the hearing test, including its purpose and procedures, and a description of the hearing conservation program, so workers understand what is expected of them and why we're doing all this.

We've talked about some of the different types of data that you'll be collecting as part of your hearing conservation program. Noise measurements, audiograms, evidence of training, maybe fit testing results — these will all need to be stored and managed. You may even have legal cases involving occupational hearing loss, which is all the more reason to keep careful records, so you can demonstrate that you've met OSHA’s requirements. If you do have any workers with that standard threshold shift, it needs to be recorded in OSHA 300 log. That's a record you probably don't want, but you need to keep it nonetheless.

Next, we'll talk about some challenges you may face when implementing a hearing conservation program and how technology can help. We'll go back through each element of a hearing conservation program starting with Noise Monitoring.

Our biggest challenge with noise monitoring is how do we accurately measure noise exposure? You know that noise is typically variable, so it changes over time. We know that workers are often mobile, so they move around from quiet areas to loud ones. They may operate different machinery with different noise levels. How can we accurately capture all of this variability?

As we talked about earlier, there's two different ways to measure noise exposure: either area measurement or personal noise monitoring. The technology we use for area measurement is a sound level meter. These come in different levels of technology but will all perform the basic task of measuring sound levels. Higher end devices may have additional features such as a colorful graphic display and the ability to store and transfer data back to your computer.

In newer technology, you may have seen is the sound level meter apps. These apps basically turn your cell phone into a sound level meter. Although they have been shown to be fairly accurate, they do require calibration, which can be tricky without the right equipment. Due to these issues, the apps are not recognized by OSHA as a proper sound level meter, so you can't use your phone for the official measurements. You can, however, still use an app to monitor your workplace. For example, if there's a change in your process, you can see if that change made a difference in your noise levels. Or you can compare two different pieces of equipment.

You can also use a personal noise monitor to measure the exposure of the person wearing it. These devices can give you different types of data including the time weighted average or the dose. Personal noise monitoring can give you a more accurate measurement of a worker’s exposure because it follows them wherever they go. When worn on the shoulder, the device is close to the ear, so it picks up the noise environment immediately around the worker. There is one problem though. If the worker is wearing hearing protection, the device is not taking that into account. It's only measuring the noise level as if the worker were unprotected.

Now we have some newer technology that can take a measurement right under the hearing protector. This gives you a more accurate measurement of the noise level that's actually reaching the worker’s ear. These devices can also store the data and transfer that and go back to your computer or mobile device. So that is some pretty cool new technology that can make life easier.

One challenge with audiometric testing can be finding the most efficient way to do hearing tests so that you minimize the amount of time workers are spending away from the job. Probably, the least effective efficient is to send workers to an external test site. This adds travel and wait time to the testing. When workers do go off site, they’re most likely tested in a sound treated booth like the one you see here. This qualifies as that appropriate test environment as required by OSHA. So at least you know your test results are accurate.

A mobile testing band can also come right to your door, which is a little more convenient. A mobile unit will likely have a smaller version of that booth right inside the truck. So again, even though you're satisfying OSHA’s requirement for an appropriate space. Workers can go out and get tested and return back to work right away, so more efficient.

Some newer technology that's available now are these portable audiometers or audiometer apps. This allows you to do a hearing test virtually anywhere as long as it's quiet enough. So, if you have a quiet office space, hearing test can be done right at your worksite. These apps usually run on an iPad or other tablet, and they use specialized headphones. The headphones can actually take a measurement of the room noise and tell you if your space is quiet enough for testing.

On the right, you'll see some noise reducing earphones. These can be used to bring the noise level down inside that your cup so that your testing can tolerate even more background noise. It's kind of like strapping that sound booth right on your ears. These are some newer technologies that can cut down on your testing time, and maybe even the cost involved with testing.

We have several challenges with hearing protection, one of which is trying to choose the right hearing protector. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hearing protection. Every worker is unique, and they'll have a different ear size and shape. Finding the right fit is crucial to getting the right amount of attenuation. Workers may also have different levels of noise exposure, so some workers will need more attenuation than others.

And different job requirements may also determine which protector is best. For example, if a job requires taking hearing protection on and off throughout the day, and the worker also has dirty hands, they may want to steer clear of a roll down foam plug and opt for a muff or a band-aid plug.

You'll also want to consider the importance of communication and other safety risks. So, how important is it that a worker can hear his coworkers? Are there warning alarms or vehicles backing up that you need to hear? This will help determine which hearing protector is appropriate.

Does the worker need to wear other personal protective equipment or gear, like this worker on the right, you want to make sure that you're hearing protector is compatible with the other PPE. We also know that workers only want to wear what's comfortable. So, this can be a very important factor to consider when choosing the right hearing protection.

Another challenge is having confidence in your hearing protection. We tend to rely on these single number ratings. So, in the US, we use the NRR, or the noise reduction rating. The NRR is just an estimate of attenuation. It really doesn't tell you anything about what the workers are actually achieving. For these plugs shown, the NRR is 33. Worker number one and worker number two wearing the plug. They both seem to have it in, maybe worker 2 has it in a little deeper, but both appear to be protected from noise. When we measure the actual attenuation, worker number one is getting 0. If you look closely, there's tiny gaps between the plug and the ear that are letting all the noise in.Worker number two is actually getting 34 dB of attenuation. So, even higher than the NRR. So, you can see how difficult it is to know if workers are getting the proper attenuation.

For both of these challenges, choosing the right hearing protector and having competence in it, a great solution is fit testing. Fit testing is a fairly complex measurement, so it requires a technological solution. There are several different fit testing systems available. They all work a little bit differently and have different pros and cons, so you have to determine what's right for your workplace. Honeywell makes the very pro system shown here. All the fit testing systems will measure and calculate a personal attenuation rating or PAR. So rather than relying on an estimate like the NNR, a PAR will tell you the actual attenuation for that particular hearing protector on that particular worker. Fit testing also allows a worker to try multiple styles and see which gives the right attenuation. He can also see which is easier to use, which is more comfortable, and so on, so workers can compare several types of hearing protectors in one sitting rather than do a more lengthy trial-and-error approach in the field.

We all know it can be difficult to hear and communicate in background noise, especially when you add hearing protection. There are many potential consequences when workers can't communicate. There are implications for safety if workers can't hear auditory alarms or verbal warnings. There may be consequences for job performance if workers rely on machinery sounds to monitor equipment or need to hear a verbal instruction, so they know what to do.

Another problem is social isolation. Feeling isolated at work can lead to poor job satisfaction, poor mental well-being, and even decreased productivity. So, although we're usually trying to turn the noise down, there are important sounds in the environment that workers still need to hear. A great solution to this problem is Electronic Hearing Protection. You may hear this called many different names including active, level dependent, amplifying and hear-through. They all refer to hearing protection that has some kind of electronic features.

Electronic hearing protection has two main components: one that attenuates noise and one that enhances speech and other quiet sounds. Electronic hearing protectors still rely on the passive qualities to attenuate noise. So, like with any passive hearing protector, the physical properties of the device block loud noise from getting in. The problem is that this passive attenuation will also bring down speech and other important sounds. The electronic or active component of the device can amplify the softer sounds, so they're easier to hear. And we don't want them to be amplified to unsafe levels, so most devices will limit the amplification to 82 dBA. This is called compression because we're taking the full range of sounds from very soft to very loud and compressing them into a smaller range.

So, for example, if you have a soft whisper around 30 dB, it will be amplified, so it's easier to hear. A comfortable sound like a conversation may only be amplified slightly. A loud sound like a lawn mower will be limited to 82 dB, as well a very loud sound like a chainsaw. So, the output of the device never exceeds that 82 dBA. You must still refer to the NRR, or better yet the PAR, because that's where your protection is really coming from. The 82 dB limit to the amplification just means that the device itself will not add to any noise exposure.

There are many other benefits to electronic hearing protection. It can provide improved communication and situational awareness. It's also a possible solution for workers with hearing loss because it turns up those softer sounds. Some of these devices can also perform fit testing and personal noise monitoring, so the hearing protector itself can tell you how much attenuation it's providing and can measure noise exposure throughout the day. This is great because rather than do a fit test once a year and hope for the best, this allows you to fit test every day. So, every day, you can be confident that workers are protected.

Some of these electronic hearing protectors can also connect to other devices, so you can take a phone call, or stream music if that's allowed at your workplace. Some also have a two-way radio feature for when communication between workers is needed. So, there's really a lot that these electronic devices can do.

Our biggest challenge with training and education is of course getting the message across. A traditional way to deliver these trainings is a toolbox or tailgate talk. This can be an effective approach because you're getting workers together at a time that they're used to receiving information, and you're refreshing them in person on hearing conservation. Little more of a high-tech way to give trainings is with a video. It can be a little impersonal, but this is especially useful if you have a large workforce and can't get everyone together at the same time. One way you can make a video interactive is with a quiz. This way, you can make sure that they watched it and that they understood it. You can even save the quiz results as evidence that you've done your OSHA training for the year.

Research shows that one-on-one training is typically most effective, and your fit testing system can be a great hands-on training tool. Some systems even include some educational materials that you can use as part of your training. Our challenge with record keeping is managing all of that data. You're going to collect all kinds of data as part of the hearing conservation program, so technology can be used to manage and even analyze your hearing conservation data.

Cloud based storage is a great tool to help you collect and organize all of your data. You're probably familiar with the cloud from other applications. Cloud based storage allows you to save your data in a remote server, rather than keeping files on a physical hard drive. This can be very useful if you have multiple work locations, or multiple people that need to access the files. Not only does this make storage easier, but it makes retrieving files easier as well. OSHA does require that if an employee asked for a copy of their hearing test, you need to be able to provide that. If it's organized in the cloud, it will be easy to find.

Different types of technology can work together. So, some of the products we already talked about can send your data straight to the cloud making things even easier. So, for example, the fit testing system can send your fit test results to the cloud, or your personal noise monitor can send those measurements straight to the cloud. With all this data in one place, you can then use software programs to help analyze your data to look for trends or to identify at-risk workers.

That brings us to our next challenge, which is knowing how to identify workers who are at risk for hearing loss? To do this, we can look at either leading or lagging indicators. Leading indicators are the ones that warn you that you're going to have a problem, and lagging indicators tell you that you already have a problem. So, we of course want to rely on leading indicators so that we can stop a problem before it starts. Leading indicators of hearing loss include our noise measurements. So, we know that if we have hazardous noise levels in the workplace, workers may be at risk for hearing loss. If we do personal noise monitoring, and workers are exceeding the recommended noise dose, we know that they're at risk for hearing loss. If our fit testing results show that workers are not receiving enough attenuation, we know they may be at risk for hearing loss.

The lagging indicators we can use are things like tinnitus and muffled hearing. So, if workers are going home at the end of the day with their ears ringing and things sound muffled, these are signs that auditory damage is already occurring. We certainly don't want to wait for our audio metric testing to tell us that a worker has had a standard threshold shift because that is an indication of permanent hearing loss.

So, how can technology help us to use our data to identify these leading indicators? Being able to visualize data can make this process much easier. Rather than combing through numbers, you can look at a graph to pick out those workers who may be at risk for hearing loss. It becomes much easier and much quicker. There are many software programs that can help you display data in a graph or chart. Even something basic like Excel, which you probably already have on your computer, can be used. If you can get your data organized in the software, there are lots of ways you can graph the data to visualize patterns and trends and spot problems, so you know what to focus on.

There are also software programs that are more specific to safety and hearing conservation that will do most of the work for you. There may be an initial investment and learning curve, but in the long run, you can use technology to save time and money and prevent hearing loss which is the goal.

So, to summarize, software and hardware solutions can help you collect, store and analyze data to streamline your hearing conservation efforts. Having access to accurate information will help you and your workers make better decisions and stop problems before they start.

Thank you! And at this point, we'd be happy to take any questions. And again, we do have markers on the line as well.

Tiffany:Yes, great presentation. Thank you so much, Jackie. This is a quick reminder to get your questions in as we will now be starting the Q&A section. We’ll start off with a few questions that have come in during the registration process. I will start with one from Lisa. “If someone only works in noise once a week, do they still need to be in the hearing conservation program?”

Jackie:So, great question. So again, that's going to depend on those two factors of noise level and noise duration. So, that's the only way we can really calculate whether or not they're reaching the action level or the permissible exposure level. But one thing to keep in mind is that OSHA regulations and other regulations, those are really kind of bare minimum requirements, so you can always add someone who may be is on the cusp or anyone who may be exposed to noise at work. So yeah, it's really, it's going to depend on exactly what they're doing that one day a week, and if that's bringing them into, you know, a potentially hazardous noise level.

Tiffany:Okay, great answer. Thank you. I have another question. Kind of in a similar vein from Nick on how to deal with variable unpredictable noise levels such as in gas and steam pipes, where noise can go to 83 dB and might reach up to 100 dB.

Jackie:So, it's a question — not sure if the question is more about what type of hearing protection to use…


Jackie:Or um…

Tiffany:Yes, exactly what hearing protection to use when the hearing issues that you may be facing are less predictable?

Jackie:So, one thing that can be useful is like a level dependent hearing protector. So, if you can use one of those electronic type products, that's great in those situations because, you know, it'll still let the lower sounds through if you need to hear other workers talking through those really high levels. The attenuation will be there, you know, ready to bring those levels down. There's also some passive level dependent type products out there that can perform a similar function. That's really going to depend on the noise types that you have. So, really an electronic hearing protector, I think, is the most adaptable to variable noise exposures. And if you don't have access to that, probably err on the side of caution, and use a high attenuation protector.

Tiffany:Got it. Thank you. I have a question here from Steven. “Can something temporary like an ear infection cause an STS?”

Jackie:It's a good question. So, the short answer, it could potentially show up as an STS on your hearing test, and that's why we don't take the first test. We want to do that retest again within 30 days. Hopefully whatever that your infection or temporary situation is will have cleared up by then. Another factor is that, things like ear infections tend to affect the lower frequencies; whereas, things like noise exposure tend to affect the higher frequencies. So, an audiologist should be able to look at that audiogram and make a determination of whether or not that's a noise induced type of hearing loss.

Tiffany:Okay, thank you. I have a question here from Tony. “What about the native noise level meter on the new Apple watch? Is this treated the same way as noise monitoring apps in the sense that it's only for monitoring but not recognized by OSHA as an official method for measurement?”

Jackie:I believe the answer is yes. I don't think that's a proper sound level mirror sound measuring device for the purposes of OSHA. But yes, like you said, just like the apps, you know, you can use it just knowing that, you know, your accuracy might not be right on.

Tiffany:Awesome. Thank you. I have a question here from Scott. “Can you supply your email out of sheet with a very shorthand initials that have been used today all listed together? For example, SLM or HPD?

Jackie:Most I can I provide those acronyms?


Jackie:Yes, I am happy to do that after the call.

Tiffany:Excellent. That will be included in the email with the recording. Thank you, Scott.

I have another question here from Rex. “What do you recommend for areas where you have to remove your hearing protection in order to talk?

Jackie:So, again, you could use possibly those electronic hearing protectors that could maybe alleviate the need to take the hearing protection off. Some of the push-in or reusable style plugs are a little easier to take in and out as opposed to, you know, roll down foam. It's a little more involved. So, something with a stem, like, Honeywell makes the — the Trust Fit Pod is one. It’s a phone plug that actually has a little stem, so you can grab it and pull it out, and you just have to push it back in. There's no rolling down. You can also get your plugs, you know, on a cord, corded earplugs, so then you can hang them around your neck, so they're right there when you need to put them back in. Similarly, there's banded plugs that have a little band that goes around the neck. That can — that'll be, you know, sitting there when you need to grab them again.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. I have a question from Jerry. “What kind of technology works with lagging indicators?”

Jackie:That's a good question. So, I think the only, you know, so some of those, the tinnitus, the muffled hearing, those are really going to be kind of personal experience. You know, you need to actually ask the person if they're experiencing those types of symptoms. The other ones are the hearing test related measurements. So, those again, they can become an electronic file. You know, that's something that you could put into a graph or have your software alert you to things like that. If you're able to get those into, you know, a software program that can graph or analyze that data, that's the type of thing that could be used as those, that hearing test data.

Tiffany:Thank you. We have another question from Scott. “Do you have a recommended app that gives the best or most accurate results?”

Jackie:I would recommend the NIOSH app. So, that's the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they have a really great app. They've been doing a lot of research with that app to ensure that it is accurate. Again, you know, your device itself should be calibrated if you can find a way to do that. But that app has been vetted to be to be a good one. So, that's NIOSH sound level meter app.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you. We have a question here from Deborah. “Can fit testing be performed for employees wearing traditional earmuffs?”

Jackie:I believe there are some systems that can handle an earmuff but not all. So, that's one of the, you know, I mentioned they all have pros and cons, so that would be, you know, one of those features that some systems have and some do not.

Tiffany:Nice. Thank you. We have a question here from Jerry. “Can we do audiometric testing on our own, or does it violate HIPAA laws?”

Jackie:It's a good question. Let's see, I’m not sure about the HIPAA aspect. I think you do need a trained person to do your hearing test. But let me look into that HIPAA question because that's an interesting one. I will get back to you. You can also send me an email there if you'd like to discuss that further. That is a great question, one I don't know.

Marc:Jackie, I want to jump in just to talk to Deborah's question about muffs that can be fit tested. I think that's one of the issues that we actually looked at when we were building our new Smart Hearing Solution, and it has the built-in fit testing with an internal and an external microphone, so it actually can tell what dose is getting through to your ear. So, you can actually fit test it in an environment that your employee is in. So, if he's in, you know, 110 dB area, you can see how well they're actually wearing their muff. You know, if eyewear is getting in the way, if hairstyle is getting in the way, then you can be assured that they have the training necessary and the correct step to be protected.

Tiffany:Great. Thank you.

Marc:Let me get a couple more questions coming in too.

Tiffany:Alright. You have one here from Camilo. “What do you recommend for machines that generate 100 dB of noise?”

Jackie:I'm assuming that means what type of hearing protection?

Tiffany:Yes, please.

Jackie:Let's say as a general rule, phone plugs tend to provide more attenuation than say a muff. So, if you're reaching really high levels, you could start with a high end NRR, but remember that NRR is not the same thing as PAR. So, if you're able to fit test, definitely do that, you can ensure that you do have enough attenuation to bring that 100 dB down.

Tiffany:Okay. Thank you, Jackie. We have a question here from Erin. “So, if we have that system, and it says someone is not exposed to high dangerous sounds, does that mean I'm not responsible for an STS if they have one?”

Jackie:That's a good question. So, I think if you can show that they are never exposed to noise in your workplace, then I guess you'd be at you'd be off the hook. And you know, certainly people are going home and doing noisy things at home as well. But if they are, you know, if they're in and out of that noise or if there is potential exposure there, you are potentially responsible.

Tiffany:Yeah, good to know. We have another question from Nakul. “How do you differentiate between work-induced hearing loss versus age related hearing loss?”

Jackie:Another good question. So, kind of like I always talked about how an ear infection will affect different frequencies than, you know, noise exposure, which will typically affect the high frequencies. So, in this case, aging, the effects of aging and noise, they do both affect those high frequencies. But there's a certain pattern we see with noise exposure, so that may give us an indication that it's, you know, noise versus aging. And also, as workers age, we actually correct for that in the hearing test. So, there's a little bit of leeway for that age-related hearing loss. So, that's just built right in and will be calculated as part of the STS. So, that that gives you a little room for that aging, age-related hearing loss.

Tiffany:Nice. Thank you, Jackie. We have a question here from Mark. “What do you recommend to measure noise in firing ranges? And then what do you recommend by way of hearing protection for officers qualifying at firing ranges?”

Marc:Hey, Jackie, I might want to field this one, if you don't mind.

Jackie:Go for it.

Marc:Mainly because it's a passion of mine, and I'm really excited about bringing new products out that can help with this situation. Mark, I’d actually ask my emails on the screen. Please send me a direct message. One of the features of our new Smart Hearing Solution is that it does offer that measurement element, as well as that NRR protection for the range and the hear-through. So, the heare-through that actually suppresses that external noise down to a permissible level and allows you to still communicate with other officers on the range, as well, as you know, an in-ear version that we're coming out with that has Bluetooth communication capabilities. So, you know, a lot of different aspects that would make it an ideal product for that situation. And I'm actually looking at testing it at a couple of the larger ranges in the country, but we'd love to hear a little bit more about it and maybe connect you with one of our reps that’s in your area. They can come out and test it with you and show you how it works to do what you're looking for.

Tiffany:Nice. Thank you, Mark. We do just have one final question here from Jamie. “What should I do if I suspect my employees are over exposed to noise during the day?”

Jackie:So, one thing you can do is, if you have access to audiometry at your workplace, or if there's a convenient way you can get them a hearing test at the end of the day and look for a shift, because we call that the temporary threshold shift where at the end of the day, there's a little bit of a hearing loss, and by the next day, it resolves. So, rather than test in the morning before noise exposure, test at the end of the day, and check for that. You know, ask them if they're experiencing those symptoms, like, you know, ringing in their ears after work, if things sound a little bit muffled. Those are signs, you know, that they are experiencing some damage. If you can fit test and see, you know, how they're using their hearing protection, if it fits properly, how much attenuation they're getting. They may just need a different type of product, or they may need better training with whatever they're using.

Tiffany:Yeah, great answer. Thank you, Jackie for a great presentation. If you have any final words you'd like to share with the audience today?

Jackie:I just want to thank everyone for joining us and thank you for all their great questions. And please feel free to email myself or Mark ,or we also have Chris Fackler’s info there. If you have any more questions, we're happy to talk more with you.

Tiffany:Yeah, absolutely. I just want to say thank you again to Jackie for a great presentation, and Mark for hopping on a few questions there, as well as Honeywell for putting on today's webinar. We'd like to thank everyone for attending the webinar. Just a reminder, we will be sending out a link to the recording and the presentation slides in a few days. Thanks again. Take care and stay safe!

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