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Hearing protection is an often-overlooked form of personal protective equipment on construction jobsites. It’s not hard to understand why. Unlike dangerous heights or open, expansive trenches, sound hazards are invisible and thus easily forgotten. But one company is trying to change that misconception— and innovate with new technology.

“Hearing protection is very important in construction, just as it’s very important for anybody that’s working in an environment that can cause long-term hearing impairment,” says Eric Murphy, head of sales for Haven Technologies. “Hearing is a sense that, for people that have their hearing when they’re born, is a gift. In previous generations, people have not been so careful to protect that sense. And when it’s gone, you never get it back.”


Haven Technologies was founded in 2016 by Pete and Elaine Murphy. Pete Murphy worked in management for some large, international safety companies, while wife Elaine Murphy previously worked at an international market research firm. After spending much of his career in the consumer safety and PPE industry, Pete saw an opportunity to put Bluetooth connectivity into earplugs, while Elaine was looking to both reenter the workforce after their children had left for college and “scratch an entrepreneurial itch.”

Based in Carmel, Indiana, Haven today has about 40 employees, including in Canada and Germany. The company focuses on Bluetooth hearing protection, which is designed to significantly reduce workforce noise and not cause hearing impairment to the user. “The Bluetooth part of it is really just aligning ourselves with communications technologies of the future,” says son Eric Murphy. “Bluetooth is often thought of by users to be [most applicable to listening to] music. But that’s a very 2010 impression of Bluetooth.

“Bluetooth nowadays means so much more than that,” Eric Murphy says. “It means connection to phones and tablets and computers and mesh network devices, and walkie-talkies that are Bluetooth-enabled. [And] we believe that the Bluetooth market for jobsite communications is going to evolve considerably in the coming years.”

It’s a new approach for a market that traditionally hasn’t embraced innovation. “We’re kind of the anti-passive-hearing protection,” Eric Murphy says. “We’re focused on bringing communication technology to hearing protection to enable users to do more, to be more productive, to be happier while they work.”


Bluetooth hearing devices come as either an over-the-ear or an in-ear hearing protector. Haven’s most popular product is an earbud that works like an earplug. The ear tip is made from a heat-activated polyurethane foam that users roll between their fingers before screwing it onto the stem of the earplug, compressing it and inserting it in their ear. There, the tip expands to fill the ear canal. For over-the-ear products, a cup provides a seal around the ear, so noise can’t get in.

Oftentimes, hearing protection needs to be customized for what people need, such as if a worker is wearing glasses or safety goggles. Devices also must conform with American National Standards Institute requirements and be compliant with OSHA noise limits. “It limits the sound level [at which] you can use the Bluetooth,” says Toni Sutton, business development manager for Haven. “So, if you’re paired with a phone or computer or another device, you’re not going to be able to increase the volume over the 85 decibels.”

One of the biggest challenges facing companies like Haven is making hearing protection a priority in the construction industry. “Hearing protection is one of the harder areas of safety to get workers to comply with, because they don’t feel pain with it, whereas some other areas of PPE that are required, if they don’t comply, they’ll actually get hurt,” Sutton says. “It’s more of an education process, because hearing loss is cumulative, and it's important to continue to have that quality of life later on.”

Another challenge is making hearing protection a positive experience—or at least a neutral one—for the user. “Part of the problem with getting people to wear hearing protection in the past is that it’s annoying,” Eric Murphy says. “It doesn’t really provide any tangible benefit that they can assess in the moment. But if a hearing device allows them to do so much more than they could with a passive hearing device, then we found users are much more likely to actually use and wear it."

For Eric Murphy, it all comes down to protecting employees in construction from losing one of their key senses. “Our vision,” he says, “is a world that’s free of preventable hearing loss—making sure that a job is not necessarily taking a toll on a person’s personal life beyond that job.” 


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