Sound of Confusion

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new requirement on the labeling of hearing protection devices may be unclear.

By Kyle W. Morrison, senior associate editor, Safety & Health Plus

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to update its regulations concerning hearing protection devices.

Under the Noise Control Act of 1972, EPA regulates the labeling of all hearing protection products sold on the basis of their effectiveness in reducing unwanted noise. Originally published in 1979, the agency’s noise labeling standards for hearing protection devices (40 CFR Part 211) govern the testing methodologies for determining noise reduction ratings – how much any given device can reduce the transmission of sound from entering the ear canal – and how to label the devices.

A proposed rule published in August 2009 includes three separate labels covering the different types of hearing protectors and a range of NRRs instead of a single number. The new standards also will allow for devices incorporating technology developed over the past three decades, such as electronic noise cancellation, to be sold as hearing protection devices.

To determine the efficiency of any earplug your employees wear, use one of the hearing protection fit testing units on the market, such as INTEGRAfit.

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