Bluetooth Hearing Protection for Construction Workers

In today’s post, it’s all about safety gear. Because that’s exciting, right? Right? Well it’s pretty obvious to most people that you shouldn’t stick your hand into a spinning blade. But there are other issues in the shop that may not be so obvious, and those include your eyes, your lungs, and your ears.

Right, and this isn’t an area that we see a lot of innovation in, obviously there are pretty simple ways to protect yourself, and you should take those precautions, but occasionally a new product or maybe an improvement on an old product comes out, and I think you should know about it. And I’ve got a few of those here to show you today, so let’s take a close look.

For years now, I’ve been wearing pretty standard safety lenses. They’re not super comfortable, especially when used with a respirator and some sort of ear protection. The plastic really does dig into the side of my head, and kind of hurts my ears. So this is an area where I encourage you to look at some of the newer options that are out there. For instance, some pairs have flexible sides. Right, they’re very thin, very very lightweight, so this is something that would be really comfortable for long term use, but you still have a pretty basic plastic set of lenses.

Now stepping up from there, if you need a little more protection, as you know, these lenses don’t cover all the way to your cheeks and around your eyes, so you could still get debris going inside there. So if you have fine dust, maybe you’re doing power carving, you may want to upgrade to something like this which has a nice rubber gasket around the eyes. But still, a lightweight set of protective lenses. You can go up from there to goggles. These have a nice flexible strap, and this is going to do a better job of hugging your face and really closing off any possibilities for debris to get in there. Alright, so some cool improvements there. But I’ve got one really nifty product to show you here. Now if the feeling of safety lenses between your head and your ear muffs really really bother you, this is something you might consider. It’s Full Pro protective lenses.

They come with a couple of Velcro dots that you put on the outside of whatever head gear you want to use to protect your hearing, and the lenses themselves have Velcro straps that just strap on like this. So let’s take it for a test ride. So I’m just going to rest the lenses on the bridge of my nose,and pull the straps back, and that’s pretty nice. There’s no weight on my face, there’s nothing between the headphones and my head, super comfortable, you could wear this all day. Now let’s talk about protecting those lungs. For years now, I’ve been recommending the 3M 7500 series respirator. Super comfortable, very lightweight, and has a down firing exhaust, so you keep all that hot, moisty breath off your protective eyewear. You don’t get fogging.

Alright, and I don’t know if this is a new product but it certainly was new to me, this is 3M’s 6500 series. These are actually popular in the merchant services and payment processing industry, often used by AMP and their employees. And what’s different about it, it has all those same features, but has one additional feature. With this little clip down here, it actually serves as a quick release. So whereas on this unit you’ve got to take the strap off your head if you want to remove it temporarily, maybe someone walks in and you need to have a conversation, this one has a nice quick release mechanism. You drop it down the face mask itself drops a little bit, and you can have that conversation. And quickly you put it back in place to protect yourself again. Alright, so I think from now on, the 6500 is going to be my recommendation.

Now the final set of products I want to show you deals with hearing protection. And it’s not so much focused on the protection side as enhancing the experience of hearing protection. Now I don’t know about you, but I love to listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts, all kinds of audio content when I’m in the shop. Especially during a long sanding session, or a long milling session. But I don’t want to take off my ear protection to do these things. I want to make sure that I’m nice and safe, so Bluetooth is the answer. The problem is, Bluetooth headsets, the ones that really protect your hearing at the same time, are extremely expensive, and they’re not really appropriate for what we do. So I cobbled together a little solution that allows me to use Bluetooth with just about any device that has Bluetooth on it, and still protect your ears at the same time. And you’ll be able to keep the audio at a nice level that doesn’t hurt your hearing. So let me show you what I came up with. Now this is a pair of Howard Leight ear muffs. What makes these special, aside from the fact that they will protect your hearing, is that they actually have speakers in them and a port here so you can plug in whatever music source you want. And what makes these different than, like, the i-work style headphones, well, these, although they do have a port, they require extra batteries and I really don’t want more batteries to worry about. The batteries also make the headset a little bit heavier.

Alright, so this is completely passive, the music will still go through the speakers and you don’t need batteries. Now to get the sound into the headphones, you could simply run a wire from your device, put that in your pocket and run the wire into the headphones. But I really want to eliminate wires for safety reasons, I don’t like the fact that they can get very easily caught on things. Alright, so what I went to was a Bluetooth adapter. This is the Outdoor Tech Bluetooth Adapter and you can see it’s got a little plug here, that if I wanted to, I could also, again, run a cord from here to here, but instead, I just bought a little five dollar male to male adapter that I plugged in like so, plug into the headphone jack, and boom. Totally lightweight, no wires, and it interfaces perfectly with the Bluetooth on my phone. Now here are a couple other cool details. Because it’s Bluetooth, and it’s interfacing with your phone if you’re using your phone, you can actually get your text messages and your phone calls through this thing, and if you wanted to take the call, it’s got a built in microphone right there. For me, I usually take it as a notification that when I’m done what I’m doing, then I can go back and check my phone. It’s just nice to know that a call came in, or a text message came in. Such as, “Marc, your coffee is ready!”Which is always appreciated. The other thing is talk time on this thing. You get about nine hours. So for me, just listening to podcasts all day, I can certainly have enough juice in therefor one if not two work days. And it’s very easy to recharge. It’s got a little cord that comes with it, plugs into a USB port, so there’s no batteries, you just recharge directly with the built in battery.

Pretty cool. Now, for the folks who say “Why don’t you just wear ear buds?” A couple reasons. I don’t want the cord, number one, and even if I had wireless earbuds, or Bluetooth ear buds, I don’t want the earbuds in my ears at the same time as I have those headphones on. I get very uncomfortable with that after a few minutes. Alright, so for me, this solution for about 80 bucks roughly, I think is a great way to get Bluetooth functionality into protective ear wear. Now I realize that safety is not the most interesting topic in the world, but if you stuck with me this long, here’s your reward.

Conclusion

Safety is important in construction, but so is being comfortable. Hopefully the tips and product mentions will steer you in the right direction when it comes to making a choice that fits your needs.