NIOSH Mining Safety and Health Research recommends using the roll, pull, and hold method when using memory foam earplugs. The process involves the user rolling the earplug into a thin rod, pulling back on the ear, and holding the earplug deep in the canal with the finger. To get a complete seal, the user must wait about 20 seconds for the earplug to expand inside the canal.
There is some protection for employees who report the health hazard. If an employee requests it, NIOSH can refuse to give the employer the name of the employees who report the health hazard. Additionally, due to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, employers may not punish employees for reporting the health hazard.
About 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise, with an addtional 9 million exposed to solvents and metals that put them at risk for hearing loss. Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common occupational diseases. 49% of male miners have hearing loss by the age of 50. By the age of 60, this number goes up to 70%. The following is a list of occupations that are most susceptible to hearing loss:
Children's hearing loss
12% of children ages 6-19 years old have permanent hearing damage from excessive noise exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics has advised that children have their hearing tested during several times:
- When they enter school
- At ages 6, 8, and 10,
- At least once during middle school
- At least once during high school
Besides screening children for hearing loss, schools can also educate them on the perils of hazardous noise exposure. Research has shown that people who are educated about noise-induced hearing loss and prevention are more likely to use hearing protectors at work or for recreation.
NIOSH first sends a letter to the person making the request. Then NIOSH sends information back to this person or can make a referral to another agency. This letter of referral is sent w/in four to six weeks. If needed, a project officer is assigned. This usually happens if a telephone consultation or visit to the workplace is neccessary. Before visiting the workplace, however, NIOSH also contacts the employer. NIOSH does not usually conduct suprise visits. After NIOSH addresses the HHE, NIOSH reports its preliminary findings to employers, employees, and employee representatives (such as unions). Verbal reports are usually given to employers and the employee representatives. At this point, the results are mostly incomplete. A written interim report is sometimes proffered. After more research into the HHE, NIOSH compiles a final report. This report is sent to OSHA, the employer, the employee representatives, and other agencies. The employer must then post this report and the information therein where all employees can view it.
To aid with goal-setting, NORA uses specific guidelines to determine which research needs are priorities. These guidelines are as follows:
- number of workers at risk for illness or injury
- severity of the hazard/issue
- probability that new information will help abate the hazard
NORA sector councils, which head the research for the sectors, help to implement the national research agenda.
- "How To Wear Soft Foam Earplugs." NIOSH Mining Safety and Health
- "Frequently Asked Questions."NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention
- "What protections are provided for employees who request and participate in HHE investigations?" Health Hazard Evaluations Program Information
- "Work-related hearing loss." NIOSH Publication No. 2001-103: 2001
- "Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Promoting Hearing Health Among Youth" CDC Healthy Youth!: 1-7-09
- "How Does NIOSH Respond to an HHE Request?" Health Hazard Evaluation Program Information
- "About Nora...Partnerships, Research, and Practice." NIOSH Website. 10-21-08.