A quick quiz. Your facility has a continuous noise level of 100 decibels (dBA). Your worker wears an earplug with a Noise Reduction Rating of 30 dB. How much noise is reaching the eardrum of the worker?

It's a question that strikes at the heart of hearing conservation efforts; yet most safety professionals have little idea how much protection is obtained by a noise-exposed worker.

Many well-intentioned managers follow best practice in offering hearing protectors and administering audiometric testing to noise-exposed workers. They are often surprised to find that their efforts simply document the progression of hearing loss, rather than prevent the loss. In the U.S. private sector, that liability grows now to an estimated $250 million annually, and the current military liability for NIHL and associated symptoms exceeds $1 billion annually.

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