Although noise is part of our everyday lives, too much noise can lead to permanent hearing damage. Constant or sudden loud noises can lead to hearing loss which gets worse over time; cause ear damage or tinnitus (a constant ringing sound in the ear which has in no external source).
When you have hearing damage, communication can be very difficult; friends and family may complain that your television is too loud; using the telephone can become frustrating and you may develop insomnia. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms are noticeable, it may be too late to rectify your hearing loss.
Hearing loss caused by noise is usually permanent, which can lead to health and safety issues (at home and at work); anxiety and depression; poor communication and a negative impact on employment opportunities and income.
That’s why it’s essential to protect your hearing as much as possible, especially if you work in a loud environment. This particularly applies to those who work with power tools, heavy machinery or in manufacturing. While your employer has a duty to protect you from adverse conditions which may lead to health conditions such as hearing loss, it’s also important for you to be aware of your environment and to take appropriate precautions.
Employers have a responsibility to be aware of and monitor exposure to noise – if levels reach 80 decibels, training and information must be provided to the workforce. If noise levels reach 85 decibels, staff must wear hearing protection and have access to hearing protection zones. An exposure limit of 87 decibels should not be exceeded – the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 aims to ensure that workers are protected from excessive noise, so that their hearing is not adversely affected.
When you’re at work, if you need to raise your voice to talk to someone standing close by, the environment is probably too loud. You can use a sound level meter app on a smartphone to check the decibel levels or ask your safety manager to check and be sure that noise levels are below 85 decibels.
You can take steps to protect your hearing at work by wearing ear defenders and earplugs, which your employer should provide and show you how to use effectively. Ear defenders should completely cover your ears with a tight fit. Earplugs are placed in the ear canal itself so you may need to practise using them. You should also keep your earplugs clean and never share them with other people.
Here are some other ways to stay safe in a loud work environment:
- Take regular breaks from noisy activities or areas
- Where possible, use quieter equipment and keep it well-maintained
- Place a barrier between you and the source of the noise
- Increase the distance between yourself and the source of the noise
- If you’re listening to music or the radio, be sure to keep volume levels at a safe level
- Always wear hearing protection in noisy areas
- If your job regularly involves noise, invest in some quality ear defenders or custom made ear plugs
The HSE provides further advice on hearing protection in the workplace – find out more at https://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/hearingprotection.htm
If you would like advice on hearing loss, tinnitus or hearing aids, take look round our website, there’s lots of useful advice or call us on 01223 661399. You can also book an Ear Health Check or Full Diagnostic Assessment here