Posted at Tuesday, 02 February, 2021

A shout-out for hearing protection

Paul Skade
By Paul Skade
Category Manager, Industrial MRO and Safety

I’ve been in the Tools and MRO industry since leaving school 45 years ago. I’ve enjoyed a wide and varied career in a variety of Sales and Procurement roles in th...

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If there’s one thing hearing protection is good at, it’s blocking-out noise. If there’s one thing it’s bad at, it’s telling the difference between dangerous noise and useful sounds: like colleagues’ voices, spoken instructions, and even alarms. So now that shouting from a close distance (under two metres) is no longer a safe option, how can employers protect their employees’ hearing, and still keep them safe in general?


With a real risk of hearing loss or tinnitus, noise is a health and safety issue. So under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers must provide hearing protection where there’s exposure to a daily or weekly average noise level of 85 decibels or above.

But hearing protection can cause problems as well as prevent them.

‘Did you say “on” or “off”?

There are countless scenarios on any production line where giving clear instructions is essential. And where hearing them clearly is more essential still.

An engineer about to start work on machinery wants to be sure the operator hears ‘switch it off’ at the right moment, and doesn’t mishear ‘switch it on’ at the wrong one. Or if there’s an accident and, for example, someone is trapped in machinery, they’ll be reassured to know their call for help can be heard – especially if there’s no line-of-sight to their closest colleague.


In those situations, hearing protection which blocks all noise would do more harm than good. But health and safety are not the only issues. Efficiency and productivity can also be affected.

A nose for trouble, an ear for efficiency

The longer the production line and the more involved the process, the greater the opportunity for upstream adjustments to affect downstream operations.

However, making changes ‘on the fly’ is difficult if they can’t be easily communicated. ‘Downstream’ won’t know they’re happening. ‘Upstream’ won’t know the result.


In these cases, standard ear protection makes communication difficult, or time-consuming, or both. And if something more urgent arises, then time is one thing you don’t have.

Speed is the key to action to prevent an issue becoming a problem, becoming a catastrophic failure. Shouting from a distance or running up the line are slow, inefficient and all too often ineffective.

But what if your hearing protection could also be your means of communication?

A word in your ear

The 3M™ PELTOR™ Litecom range are ear defenders with built in two-way radio, incorporating speakers and a microphone. They not only protect the wearer against dangerously loud noise, they also allow them to communication with colleagues anywhere on site, without shouting or removing the defenders.

And even in the noisiest environments, the noise-cancelling microphone can differentiate speech from loud extraneous noise. Two-way conversation can be heard loud and clear, and the listener isn’t subjected to environmental noise from the caller’s end of the line.

The top-of-the-range option, 3M™ PELTOR WS™ Litecom Plus Headset also offers Bluetooth connectivity, making it simple to connect with an in-house DECT phone system, or a handheld digital tablet. Which means the wearer can even conduct Skype calls or Zoom meetings on-site, without removing their ear defenders.

In fact, the automatic electronic volume control built into the defenders means there’s no need to remove them from clocking-on to knocking-off time. They constantly adjust to the level of ambient noise: blocking out noise in a noisy environment and allowing sounds to be heard in quieter surroundings.

3M™ PELTOR™ WS™ Litecom Plus

A hearing protector with built-in analog two-way communication radio, a level-dependent function for ambient listening and Bluetooth® Multipoint connectivity.

The noise cancelling dynamic microphone provides voice-operated transmission (VOX) for hands-free use, with an external jack allowing connection to a mobile device.

Constantly changing sound levels improve situational awareness, while the clear battery status indicator and auto-power functions save energy.

Going the (social) distance

Basic ear defenders do a good job of blocking out noise. So when colleagues need to communicate, the fall-back option has been to get close and shout. Now that’s no longer an acceptable solution.

Ear defenders with a built-in two-way radio – with up to 16 channels on the 3M™ PELTOR™ Litecom model – provide protection and allow safe communication. A major cereal manufacturer and a leading producer of glass packaging are already seeing these benefits.

After purchasing a small number of 3M™ PELTOR™ Litecom ear defenders in early 2020, they were highly impressed by the results. So when on-site socially-distanced communication became essential, they massively increased their order, and equipped many more employees.

Now all we hear are good reports.

For further information on the innovative 3M™ PELTOR™ WS™ Litecom headset, or to place an order, please CLICK HERE to visit our Webshop. Alternatively, if you would like additional details on hearing protection or the 3M™ PELTOR™ range of communcation solutions, don't hesitate to contact your Local ERIKS Service Centre today. Your safety is our priority!

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