The Department of Labor is challenging inventors and entrepreneurs to help develop a technological solution to workplace noise exposure and related hearing loss.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have launched the ‘Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge’ with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.

Every year, 22 million workers risk losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Hearing loss disability costs businesses an estimated $242 million annually in workers’ compensation.

Idea submissions are due by Sept. 30. Ten finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on Oct. 27 in Washington D.C. The event will feature investors, representatives of the NIOSH Research to Practice Program and representatives of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The competition is open to all ideas related to occupational hearing protection. Suggested topics include:

  • 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.

More information and a link to submit ideas can be found here.

The competition is open to the general public, including OSHA contractors and special government employees. However, employees of federal OSHA, “state plan” states and on-site consultation programs are not eligible.