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Protecting hearing without blocking sounds

All traffic management workers with Optima, the Managing Area Contractor (MAC) for Highways Agency Area 11, are to be issued with new ear protectors that block the damaging high frequency background noise made by constantly moving traffic, but still allow sounds such as voices and cars on rumble strips to be heard.

The permissible noise level for an eight-hour working day is 80 decibels, which can easily be reached or exceeded on the side of a motorway. At 85dB and above it is mandatory to wear hearing protection. But traffic management workers need to be able to hear any warning sounds and traditional ear defenders make it difficult to hear an approaching vehicle as they cut out all of the surrounding noise.

Optima has been trialling the Otoplastic "ClearSound" ear protectors, which involve each wearer going through a fitting procedure in which impressions of the ear canal are taken using a liquid plastic that sets in the ear. These are used to make the individual ear protectors, which contain an air permeable filter to give ventilation to the ear canal.

Pete Condon, assistant engineer at Optima IM commented: "The feedback that we had from the operatives who trialled these for us was very encouraging.

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