The Effects of Noise and Hearing Protection

When we talk about tree worker safety, most people think about staying safe around chippers or how to avoid falling when ascending a tree. However, keeping your hearing safe while doing tree work is equally important. Hearing loss from tree work is entirely preventable using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Every time you expose yourself to loud noises – even for a few seconds – it’s possible that you’ll damage your hearing permanently.

What Can Cause Hearing Damage?

Sound is measured in decibels (dB), and the scale of sound closest to human hearing is the A scale. This is used by OSHA and referred to as dBA. Under OSHA regulations, workers exposed to noise levels over 90 dBA on an eight-hour average require hearing protection. Studies have shown that noises over 85 dBA can be detrimental to hearing, so it’s important to go beyond OSHA’s standards. The amount of damage that occurs will depend on a mix of the amount of exposure, intensity of noise and susceptibility of the individual.

Temporary hearing loss can happen after short-term exposure, but prolonged exposure to high-noise levels will eventually lead to permanent hearing loss. First, it effects the ability to hear high-frequencies and then later effects hearing of lower frequencies as the damage begins to worsen. Some of the most common practices in tree trimming have dBAs over 85, including chainsaw, brush cutter, chipper, stump grinder and leaf blower use. Working near large equipment can also fall in this category.

The good news is that there are proven ways to prevent hearing loss.

How Can I Prevent Hearing Damage?

There are two different types of protection available, ear plugs or ear-muff style PPE. Townsend will provide employees with ear plugs upon hire, however they’re only effective if you actually wear them! For those who prefer ear muffs, these can be purchased by employees and are allowed to be used as long as they meet ANSI standards. This equipment should be fitted to each individual for maximum effectiveness.

How Do I Care for my Hearing Protection Equipment?

Proper care needs to be taken for both ear muffs and ear plugs to ensure your hearing is protected.

Keep ear muffs in working order by remembering these things:

  • Never modify the headband to reduce pressure
  • Avoid drilling holes in the ear cups
  • Inspect regularly for breaks or cuts and replace torn or damaged ear seals
  • Inspect plastic cup and foam lining too
  • Wash seals periodically in mild soap and water
  • Store in freezer-type plastic bag and seal when not in use

Caring for ear plugs requires similar steps:

  • Inspect for defects of deterioration
  • Clean plugs daily in mild soap and water
  • Store in freezer-type plastic bag and seal when not in use and put them somewhere they won’t get lost

By wearing and properly caring for your ear PPE, you can protect yourself from irreversible hearing damage during tree trimming work. Once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back. For any additional questions, ask your general foreman for more information!







Posted: 9/18/2019 11:05:41 AM by Global Administrator