Is your work environment affecting your hearing?

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Far too many people have to work in noisy environments, despite technological improvements that have helped to alleviate the situation for some. Unfortunately, some employers and employees are not aware of the damage that can be done to our hearing, either by constant levels of noise or sudden, intermittent bursts.

While many workplaces can be noisy, there are some which are particularly problematic. They include:

  • Factories
  • Quarries
  • Supermarkets
  • Roadworks
  • Workshops
  • Airports
  • Night clubs

It should be noted, however, that many other locations can still cause problems. Even in banks, offices and shops there may be hearing-related issues which need to be dealt with. Reducing noise in the workplace is a great way to help prevent hearing loss, so it’s a good idea to learn and understand the legal requirements.

Know the law in regard to noise levels

With around 20,000 people per year suffering hearing loss caused at work, it’s easy to see why this is such an important issue. Employers should conduct a noise assessment and take steps to control the risks involved. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be issued where necessary, and it’s vital for noise levels to be regularly monitored.

The Exposure Limit Values give a clear indication of what’s acceptable. They advocate keeping levels below a daily or weekly exposure of 87dB, and a peak action level of no more than 140dB. If you are having to shout to someone only a metre away, the noise level is likely to be around 90dB or more. Employers have a responsibility to take various steps to reduce the risk to auditory health, including maintenance, signage and, of course, eliminating noise where possible.

You can help, too

While the legal responsibilities lie mainly with the employer, employees can also take steps to prevent hearing loss. One of the simplest ways to get a quick win is via the use of noise protection plugs, which are manufactured from soft silicone and fit neatly and comfortably into the ear canal. They provide a great deal of protection, with up to 32dB reduction in noise.

As well as offering protection to workers in a wide variety of industry sectors, they are also ideal for musicians, concert- and festival-goers, motor sports fans and shooting enthusiasts. It’s important for anyone who is regularly exposed to high noise levels to prevent hearing loss whenever an opportunity shows itself. Your local Hearing Care Centre will be able to advise on the dangers of high noise levels.