One of the roles of OSHA or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to protect employees in the United States from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). With standards for employers to

Everything You Need to Know About OSHA and Noise Induced Hearing Loss

reach like education protocols and supplied equipment, OSHA plays a large role in the average workplace. Specifically, the more danger prone industries like construction, the military, factories, and more are highly regulated.

Business owners and agencies can protect themselves and their employees by following OSHA’s guidelines. By supplying educational videos etc. and the right equipment, employers can prevent potential litigation and employees can prevent NIHL. We will outline the specifics behind OSHA’s expectations and how they can be implemented within these critical industries.

What is OSHA:

OSHA which stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a national organization made to protect workers. In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act which spurred the creation of OSHA.

OSHA’s mission, according to their website is to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance”.

As part of the U.S. department of labor, OSHA ensure all workers are protected under their regulations. The act covers most private sector employers and employees and some public sector organizations.

This means that most, if not all businesses, should be prepared to follow OSHA’s guidelines to protect themselves and their workers. These guidelines include NIHL, so industries that are prone to consistent loud noises need to know what the protection expectations include.

What standard does OSHA require from employers to protect employees from hearing loss?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a few different expectations for employers to follow. The first standard employers must reach is to implement a hearing conservation program when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). This is the general language presented to all employers.

This standard includes programs that work to prevent initial hearing loss, preserve, and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with knowledge and equipment to protect themselves. Not only are employers expected to educate their employees, but they must also supply the necessary equipment. 

Hearing loss from noisy environments is a more serious problem than what is often expected. The CDC estimated that 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise at work each year. This includes industries like the military, construction, landscaping, factories, and others which employ hundreds to thousands of people.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushes many areas of life to change; however, it did not impact OSHA’s hearing protection standards. If anything, COVID-19 standards of physical distancing has increased the frequency of the use of hearing protection.

Because workers are asked to use communications headsets to maintain distancing, the COVID-19 pandemic is improving the consistency of hearing protection. Most communications headsets double as a form of hearing protection making them a wise investment for most employers whose employees may need NIHL prevention.

OSHA continues to encourage the prevention of NIHL, but employers must provide the proper training and equipment because when mistakes are made injuries can occur.

Possible injuries and issues that can occur from not utilizing the right equipment:

Because noise induced hearing loss or NIHL is commonly known, many workers want to make sure they are protected. However, without the proper knowledge and equipment, workers can “overprotect” their hearing. In this context, “overprotect” means they are using too much equipment.

Workers will sometimes double up on hearing protection like using earplugs in addition to earmuffs or a headset in an environment where that is not required. Although they are protecting their hearing, they are putting the rest of their functions and fellow coworkers at risk because they can no longer properly communicate.

Extra protection can prevent workers in a manufacturing facility from hearing instructions like “a machine is malfunctioning do not go near”. In physically dangerous industries like construction, factories, the military, etc., a lack of communication can be life threatening.

Industries that are regulated by OSHA that would require sufficient hearing protection:

Common industries that are at risk include:

  • Military shooting ranges
  • Large construction companies and sites
  • Airport tarmac workers
  • Landscapers
  • Large farm corporations
  • Large factories
Information about the DBA of different industries

At large construction sites there are many different projects being attended to at once so all workers must be alert and in the lines of communication to ensure all runs smoothly. If communication is broken from a misuse of NIHL prevention equipment and an employee gets injured, an employer can become liable.

Discuss ways First Source Wireless can help employers meet these requirements:

First Source Wireless is a great supplier of reliable brands like 3M Peltor, Ops Core, Silnyx, Waveband, and more. These brands all produce top of the line hearing protection like ear inserts and headsets. One resource First Source Wireless supplies that ensures proper use of NIHL protection equipment is an earplug fit testing system.

The Earplug fit testing with the 3M™ E-A-Rfit™ Validation System has earplugs that are modified with a probe tube. In the system there are 50 PR per case. The 3M PSD products are for occupational use only, but keep in mind the NRR or noise reduction rating may overestimate the hearing protection provided during typical use.

The test system cannot be used for hearing protection, it should only be used to know what size hearing protection a person needs. The 3M validation system is a leading advancement in hearing conservation because it helps ensure that users are fitted properly. As established earlier, is hearing protection is not fitted properly, it cannot properly protect.

Additional options available:

Two of the most popular headsets that help prevent NIHL sold at First Source Wireless include LITECOM PRO 3 and the PRO TAC XPI. Each of these headsets have unique features like easy connection to two-way radios and keeping noise low.


    • Built-in programmable two-way communication radio allows handsfree headset to headset communication—no cable or cords
    • Can be programmed to up to 70 unique two-way radio channels using analog and/or DMR digital modulation
    • Seamless connection to external device with Bluetooth technology
    • Noise-canceling waterproof speech microphone
    • Environmental listening technology assists workers to hear environmental sounds in low noise and helps provide protection when it’s loud.
    • Voice operated transmission (VOX) for hands-free operation in high noise environments
    • NRR of 28 decibels provides OSHA compliant hearing protection you can trust

    • 3M Peltor WS ProTac XPI Headset Headband
    • Hearing protection, Bluetooth communication, and noise-canceling speech microphone in one
    • Multipoint Bluetooth connectivity for seamless connection to other devices
    • Stainless steel wire headband stays comfortably secure during prolonged usage
    • Environmental listening
    • Voice operated transmission (VOX) for hands-free operation in high noise environments
    • Noise canceling IP68 classified speech microphone
    • Features a PTT button on the earcup and an FLX2 auxiliary port to connect a wide variety of two-way radios
    • Find out more about the Protac XPI

Certification process producers use:

You’re being told that these products can protect you from NIHL but how can you trust that is true? All reputable companies like 3M Peltor use third party labs to conduct tests to prove certifications of products.

3M in particular uses ANSI S3.19-1974. According to the Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA’s regulations, ANSI S3.19-1974 is the current testing requirement for hearing protective device labeling. ANSI requires ten human subjects for hearing protector evaluations using nine test frequencies. The Noise Reduction Rating or NRR is calculated from the data gathered from the subjects.

To see the government requirements in more detail you can go HERE.

The best ways to implement these products into the workforce:

To ensure proper noise induced hearing loss prevention you will need to purchase proper equipment, provide training, and post training materials.

When buying proper equipment keep the headsets above and ear insert tester in mind. Aside from those any headsets and ear inserts from reputable companies that have an NRR are also great. Headsets are a convenient option instead of ear inserts because they can connect to two-way radios creating a situation where hearing is protected whilst communication remains consistent.

Employers also need to supply training on how to prevent NIHL and how to use the purchased equipment and in what situations. Training materials, methods, and advice are offered through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Lastly, all employers should supply post training materials like manuals and videos to reference in the future. First Source Wireless features a variety of videos related to headsets and supplies manuals on each product listing.


Noise induced hearing loss is a serious issue and common occurrence in loud workplaces. Professions like the military, factory lines, construction, and more are highly susceptible to NIHL; therefore, organizations like OSHA have created prevention protocols. With these expectations, employers are required to provide the knowledge and resources for employees to protect themselves against NIHL.

Products like 3M headsets and ear fit testing can be used to prevent noise induced hearing loss. These products can be trusted for protection because each one is tested by a third-party organization approved by the EPA. First Source Wireless is a great provider of the equipment necessary for employees to protect their hearing and employers to avoid negligence lawsuits from OSHA.

DEANNA PARENTI is a Marketing Copywriter at Waveband Communications. With her experience in critical communications, she helps public safety clients enhance their team communications during everyday work and emergencies.

OshaWorkplace hearing protectionWorkplace safety

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