OSHA launches occupational hearing safety competition

ear plugThe U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have launched a competition “…with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation,” according to a recent OSHA press release.

Twenty-two million workers risk losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards, costing businesses an estimated $242 million annually in workers’ compensation, according to the press release. The “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge” campaign aims to help decrease those numbers. The competition, open to the general public, encourages participants to create technology that will improve occupational hearing protection. Suggested topics detailed in the press release include:

  • Technology that will enhance employer training and improve effective use of hearing protection.
  • Technology that alerts workers when hearing protection is not blocking enough noise to prevent hearing loss.
  • Technology that allows workers to hear important alerts or human voices while remaining protected from harmful noise.

Ten finalists of the competition will be invited to present their ideas to a panel of judges on October 27 in Washington D.C. Idea submissions are due by September 30. To learn more about the competition, or submit ideas, click here.

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Occupational Noise Exposure

Occ NoiseEvery year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise. Noise-related hearing loss has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years. Thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. In 2009 alone, BLS reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases.

Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Neither surgery nor a hearing aid can help correct this type of hearing loss. Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss.

To learn more, visit the OSHA website.