Revolutionizing Construction Safety: Innovations in Hearing Protection Technology

Revolutionizing Construction Safety: Innovations in Hearing Protection Technology
Commu­ni­ca­tion on active construc­tion sites is crucial, but with traditional methods of hearing protection, it's difficult to do without compromising safety. Through our R&D program, our construc­tion management group has tested and researched different methods to improve staff and client safety.

the hearing protection paradox

On active construc­tion sites, hearing protection typically looks like a hard hat with earmuffs or plugs that shut out harmful noise. The problem is, blocking out the harmful noise like jack­ham­mer­ing and pile driving means you’re blocking out everything else, too. “You can’t have conver­sa­tions about the work taking place while keeping your ears safe with typical hearing protection,” said Karen Counes, program and construc­tion management practice leader. “If you're talking to me, unless I can read lips, I can’t understand you. The first thing I need to do is take off one of my earmuffs and expose my eardrums to loud sound so we can have a conver­sa­tion. We knew there had to be a better way.”

a sound solution for construction safety

Hungry for a solution, CDM Smith's construc­tion management group leveraged our R&D program to test and research options in the field. Seeking technology that lives up to the group's principles of safety, quality and reliability, one contender stuck out. Sensear is an enhanced form of hearing protection designed for heavy construc­tion sites that proved successful at keeping staff and clients safe while unlocking new possi­bil­i­ties for commu­ni­ca­tion and efficiency on site. As a mobile, wearable, hands-free telecom technology, this device attaches to a hard hat and makes it easier for the field construc­tion inspectors and managers to collaborate. “The biggest benefit is that I can hear conver­sa­tions around me, but it drowns out other noise completely,” said Christopher Barto, senior inspector. “The idea of being able to communicate with each other and not shout in each other’s ears or remove our earmuffs to talk finally allows for free conver­sa­tion.”

integrating technology, promoting accessibility

Bluetooth enabled products like Sensear can also layer with other tech­nolo­gies such as Microsoft HoloLens and RealWear HMT devices to see plans and construc­tion conditions in real-time and communicate to office staff or other stake­hold­ers via cell phone or Microsoft Teams. Being able to build our construction tech stack helps our teams deliver work more efficiently and safely.  “When we were out in the field testing this, we were able to share different content and data, from the real world and the design world as well,” said Scott Aldridge, innovation & disruptive technology leader.

One thing that drew us to this device was the ability to integrate it with other digital tech­nolo­gies affordably.
Scott Aldridge, innovation and disruptive technology leader

One specific challenge we encounter in the field is that staff with hearing loss cannot use earplugs or earmuffs with hearing aids. New technology allows these field staff to integrate their personal hearing equipment and their hearing protection with other hands-free or Bluetooth technology without frequency jamming, or inter­rup­tions to electrical signals of the hearing-assisted device resulting in high pitched, painful tones. “I have a little bit of hearing loss and I have hearing aids that hook over the back of my ears,” said Brian McCarthy, program management discipline leader. “You typically have two choices for hearing protection, and that’s either earmuffs or ear plugs. If I use muffs, that creates an environment in which I’ll get feedback from the hearing aid. If I use plugs, I have to take the hearing devices out. With Sensear being a muff type that goes over my ears, I don’t need to take my hearing aids out and I don’t experience the feedback.” 

“As an orga­ni­za­tion, we want more people of different abilities to work on our teams. We can use a new bench of people in this field of work, which is something we appreciate when we’re trying to gather boots on the ground for a project,” Counes said. “Our goal is an enhanced, safe work experience for a greater number of people.”

The construc­tion management group is currently piloting Sensear across active sites to define the new normal for staff safety and project efficiency. “If we can use a product like this to enhance communication, maintain our quality of work, our schedule, and limit risk to our own employees and clients, that’s a more efficient way to do business,” Counes said. 

Karen Counes Karen Counes
If we can use a product like this to maintain our quality of work, our schedule, and limit our risk to our own employees and clients, that’s a more efficient way to do business.
construction construction
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