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Tips to protect people's hearing at work

Tips to Protect Hearing at Work

The importance of avoiding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Each year, the...

The importance of avoiding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Each year, the 3rd of March marks the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) World Hearing Day. The event aims to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss, and promote ear and hearing care across the world.

World Hearing Day identifies noise control as one of the seven key interventions to prevent hearing loss. At Flexshield we believe that every day there should be a focus on preventing workers from suffering from hearing loss.

How workplace exposure contributes to NIHL

Poorly controlled workplace exposures and a lack of training provided to workers can result in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the world’s fifth leading cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) globally.

DALYS refers to the number of years of full health lost due to disability, and NIHL represents 8.16 million or 9.1 per cent of all DALYs.

Occupational noise exposure significantly contributes to hearing loss, and happens in almost all work settings to varying degrees. The severity is dependent on factors such as the frequency (Hz) of the noise, loudness (dB) and duration of exposure. This can be exacerbated outside of work, for example, by going to nightclubs or pursuing hobbies. Other contributing factors may include ageing, some illnesses and diseases, and some medications.

Why employers and workers have dual responsibility for preventing NIHL

Even though NIHL means a permanent loss of hearing, it’s important to note that continued exposure will cause further deterioration.

Poorly educated managers have been heard to say they would put a worker with NIHL in the noise zone, as they have already lost their hearing. Yet this should not happen. Prevention of further hearing loss should be a priority.

Hearing loss is insidious, and it can take ten years before an individual identifies a problem and seeks help. Once diagnosed, it is essential that any further hearing loss is prevented to preserve hearing and quality of life and, by association, limit the person’s degree of disability.

Fortunately, exposure to excessive noise in the workplace can be controlled – and the incidence of NIHL reduced – through concerted efforts by both employers and workers.

Top tips on avoiding NIHL for employers

  • Conduct noise surveys and compile noise maps. Communicate the results to your employees, so they are clear on where the risks lie.
  • Prevent exposure at the source by enclosing machines, rather than relying on hearing protection devices. A three-decibel drop in noise halves the impact on hearing health, making this small change significant in terms of hearing loss.
  • Ensure workers are provided with the correct hearing protection devices. Train them in the correct usage, and enforce usage.
  • Educate workers on the risks of exposure to noise and its impacts on their quality of life, eg. impairing their communication with loved ones.
  • Offer better protection to workers with hearing loss. Customised hearing protection can prevent further deterioration, especially in the early stages of hearing loss. These workers should be monitored more regularly, and if hearing loss continues, consider moving them out of the noise zone.

Top tips on avoiding NIHL for workers

The early warning signs of NIHL are subtle, yet they need to be acted upon sooner rather than later. These signs include ringing in the ears, an inability to hear soft sounds, muffling of speech and other sounds, trouble understanding conversation, the need to concentrate while listening, and the need to turn up the volume on devices. Speak to your occupational safety and health (OSH) professional if you are concerned.

  • Familiarise yourself with the noise zones at work and comply with all legal instructions provided by your employer, i.e. wearing hearing protection in a noise zone.
  • Participate in hearing screening tests to know how you are being affected by noise.
  • Use your hearing protection correctly and ensure prompt replacement if damaged or misplaced. Raise any concerns or problems with the OSH professional in your workplace.
  • Manage your environmental exposure where possible to protect your hearing health further, i.e. use hearing protection at home when using noisy tools and equipment.

Preventing hearing loss and future disability is dependent on the actions taken today – by both employers and workers. That is why both parties need to work to protect hearing and prevent hearing losses. Take care today so that you can hear tomorrow!

Reduce NIHL with engineered noise control methods

Engineered controls, from Sonic System acoustic enclosures to Sonic Acoustic curtain enclosures, are the best and most effective solution to reduce the impacts of NIHL. Silencing machines with an absorbent product will reduce the risk of hearing loss better than any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available on the market.

Flexshield has wide experience in creating solutions for industrial projects. We may recommend our Sonic Series acoustic louvres or Sonic Access acoustic doors to address the risk of NIHL in your workplace. The noise control options available are almost endless!

Talk to Flexshield about avoiding NIHL

For more information about how to protect yourself and your workers from NIHL, contact the Flexshield team today on 1300 799 969 or get in touch online.