Every year, 22 million workers risk losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Hearing-loss disability costs companies an estimated $242 million annually in workers' compensation. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration hope to cut these figures with a competition to develop new technological solutions in occupational hearing protection.

Ear defenders help protect wearers from hearing loss. Image credit: PixabayEar defenders help protect wearers from hearing loss. Image credit: PixabayThe two safety organizations, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have launched the “Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge” to inspire ideas and raise business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.

The competition encourages entrants to explore topics such as:

· Technology that will enhance employer training and improve effective use of hearing protection

· Technology that alerts workers when hearing protection is not blocking enough noise to prevent hearing loss

· Technology that allows workers to hear important alerts or human voices while remaining protected from harmful noise

Idea submissions are due by Sept. 30, 2016. OSHA and MSHA will invite 10 finalists to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on Oct. 27 in Washington D.C. The event will feature investors, as well as representatives from the NIOSH Research to Practice Program and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The competition is open to the general public, including OSHA contractors and special government employees.

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