NSF Launches Hearables Challenge


“The National Science Foundation has kicked off an interesting challenge, the Hearables Challenge, seeking “proposals for algorithms or methods for enhancing the clarity of conversation in noisy settings.” The challenge’s website lists its key dates: April 25 launch, May 24 webinar, June 26 submission deadline, and the winners announced in September 2017.

On the website are a sample audio file and a forum where NineSigma’s Kevin Andrews, Ph.D., senior program manager (email phd@ninesigma.com), is the moderator. The NSF team members listed are Wendy Nilsen, Ph.D., listed as program director, Smart & Connected Health, and Beth Linas, MHS, Ph.D.

“Think about your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers,” the introduction to the NSF-sponsored challenge says. “You probably know someone with hearing loss—an elderly grandparent or a veteran who served our country—and you probably know how hearing loss impacts one’s ability to communicate. According to the Committee on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults, there are 30 million Americans over 12 that have hearing loss, and hearing loss worsens as we age. Many with hearing loss do not seek or receive hearing health care because of cost, availability of services, stigma, lack of realization that they have hearing loss, and belief that nothing can help them.”
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How to Choose the Most Effective Hearing Protection?


“Selecting the right hearing protection is not always an easy task. One of the most important duties that a safety manager has is to choose the right protection, one that employees will wear 100 percent of the time they are exposed to noise. Factoring in cost and usage is also important; most companies spend on average 30 cents per person per day on hearing devices, such as disposable ear plugs. Investing in a more cost-effective and efficient form of hearing protection is ideal.

There is a plethora of options on the market, but selecting the protector most appropriate to your needs and the needs of your workers will help ensure the adaptation of this device. So one may ask, “Which hearing protection is the right protection?” Well, the answer to that is actually quite easy—the best protection allows for these four benefits: It is comfortable, allows for communication, is convenient, and is eco-friendly.”
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Ear Plug Selection and Fitting Best Practices


“Despite more than 30 years of regulatory advances and ever-increasing awareness of the danger, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) continues to be one of the leading preventable occupational injuries in the workplace. Yet many safety managers falsely assume that proper use of hearing protection is fairly intuitive, as easy as just purchasing “one size fits all” ear plugs and distributing to noise-exposed workers. In this discussion, Brad Witt, director of hearing conservation at Honeywell, identifies the critical steps to ensure hearing protection is properly selected, fitted, and worn to stop noise-induced hearing loss.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning: selecting the proper ear plug. How can safety managers determine which ear plugs are the best fit for their workers?

A: Imagine sending a friend to the store to purchase shoes for you, with the following instructions: “Any size, any shape, any style … doesn’t really matter!” Many people select ear plugs in the same carefree manner. The prevailing assumption is that “anything in my ear will protect my hearing—it doesn’t really matter.” In reality, ear canals come in different sizes and shapes, affecting both fit and protection levels, as well as comfort. A work site that offers only one size or style of ear plug sabotages its own hearing conservation efforts.”
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Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge

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“Every year, 22 million workers risk losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Hearing loss disability costs businesses an estimated $242 million annually in workers’ compensation. The Department of Labor is challenging inventors and entrepreneurs to help develop a technological solution to workplace noise exposure and related hearing loss.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have launched the ‘Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge’ with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.

Idea submissions are due by September 30. Ten finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on October 27 in Washington D.C. The event will feature investors, representatives of the NIOSH Research to Practice Program and representatives of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

More information and a link to submit ideas can be found at https://www.dol.gov/featured/hearing 

(This is shared from an email sent to the Region 2 VPP Sites from Richard F. Brown, CSP, CFPS, VPP Manager, US DOL OSHA)