The Future of Jobsite Hearing Protection

Sept. 6, 2022
Electronic hearing protection devices also should deliver big safety and productivity benefits

By: Jack Roberts

Has the time come for advanced noise-cancelling technology to put foam earplugs out to pasture? Stan Phillips thinks so. Phillips is an otolaryngologist (that’s an ear, nose, and throat specialist) and a member of the National Hearing Conservation Association. Phillips has been a crusader for better hearing protection for U.S. military personnel as well as industrial workers. Now Phillips has teamed up with noted music producer Rob Roy to develop a new generation of hearing protection for workers in construction and other industrial applications.

The Clear 360 Pro headset is more than just the latest in noise-cancelling technology. It’s a lightweight, programmable, hearing protection device that also delivers full communication capabilities between workers as well as sound localization functionality. Phillips said the Clear 360 Pro headset gives workers unprecedented hearing protection without sacrificing critical situational awareness on a jobsite and while maintaining clear, precise communication in the process.

“I really view this headset as the ‘Holy Grail’ in modern hearing protection technology,” Phillips said. He notes that conventional foam ear plugs, while protecting hearing, also takes away several critical frequencies the human ear depends on for clear verbal communication. They also decrease the ear’s ability to determine where a sound is originating from – a serious problem around moving machinery and materials on a construction site. With this headset, the wearer can quickly and accurately determine where a sound is coming from – off to one side, in front, or in back of them. This enables workers to quickly locate the source of a backup alarm from a moving machine, or allows soldiers or law enforcement to quickly determine the source of gunfire.”

In development for almost a decade, Phillips said the Clear 360 Pro mimics the structure inside the human ear to allow both the filtration of harmful noise levels while enhancing frequencies mandatory for clear communication. Phillips said the Clear 360 Pro does this by incorporating patented hardware designs and proprietary audio processing software into a field-tested, next-gen wearable that focuses on enhancing workplace safety and communication.

The headset is lightweight, comfortable, and designed to withstand the rigors of weather, dirt, dust, and grime. It’s Bluetooth capable and features a host of different settings for virtually any work environment, including an enhanced “super hearing” mode to detect detailed sounds in a quiet setting, precise two-way communication capabilities and superior hearing protection from both continuous and transient sounds.

Phillips is something of an evangelical when it comes to hearing protection, and believes that hearing loss eventually leads to much bigger health problems for workers. “Over the long term, I see significant evidence that hearing loss leads to issues such as depression, diabetes, hypertension, and other serious medical problems,” Phillips said. “But, by using the Clear 360 Pro, you can see worker compensation claims and insurance premiums decrease because you’re not only protecting hearing, you’re enhancing safety throughout a jobsite because your workers now have enhanced ability to detect sound and communicate clearly while staying fully productive on the job.”

The advantage of using state-of-the-art audio processing algorithms is that all three of the key benefits for workplace safety are now available in one product, Phillips added. This includes hearing protection, uninterrupted auditory situational awareness, and the ability to communicate face to face or through Bluetooth-connected radios and phone. “Now,” he said, “crews can communicate around heavy machinery and if a supervisor or foreman on a noisy job site needs to take a phone call, it can be done without stepping away from the site, while still preserving their situational awareness and protecting their hearing.” R&B

Jack Roberts covers the equipment side of our industry for Roads & Bridges.

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