We have all gone to a music event or firework display and come away thinking that it was a little too loud. Perhaps your ears have been left ringing, or you even spend a few minutes struggling to hear. If that is the case, then the likelihood is that those decibel levels were loud enough to cause you hearing damage. In more extreme cases, your hearing can be temporarily or permanently damaged — this is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Most of us can avoid potentially damaging noise levels, but what if you are exposed to high levels of noise every day at your workplace? With around 25% of all workers exposed to hazardous noise, it is important to understand the dangers of occupational hearing loss, the common hazards, how to prevent severe damage, and how to live with any hearing loss. Here at Hearing Group, we will expand on the subject and spotlight five common workplace hazards to watch out for.
Occupational Hearing Loss
Noise is pressure changes in the air caused by vibrations, which travel to the ears through sound waves. Tiny hair cells (cilia) in the inner ear (or cochlea) convert these sound waves into electrical signals and transmit them to the brain.
However, when you are exposed to loud noise, these sound waves damage the cilia. If they are damaged permanently, they do not grow back, leading to permanent hearing loss.
The risk of hearing damage and occupational hearing loss increases with sound intensity rather than volume. When the noise levels rise above 85 decibels (dB), it can lead to hearing damage within as little as two hours of exposure. If you believe that you are being exposed to dangerously loud noises, it is important to do something about it.
Common Workplace Hazards
Occupational hearing loss can not only impact your productivity and ability to communicate at work, but it can also cause you psychological and physical stress and anxiety. It is therefore vital to be aware of potential hearing loss hazards. Here are five common hazards to watch out for:
Heavy machinery comes in many shapes and forms and is used in various applications. From forklifts to bulldozers, heavy machinery is often associated with excessive occupational noise and can even go beyond 105 dB. Whatever industry you are working in, it is essential to pay attention to manufacturers’ and employers’ protocols when it comes to safely using these noisy pieces of heavy machinery.
If you have ever used pneumatic tools before, then you will know that these high-pressure air-powered tools come with plenty of noise. Machinery like jackhammers and drills can produce noise levels that go as high as 110 dB — levels very likely to cause hearing loss even if you are only exposed for a short period.
As you would expect, impact tools can create a lot of noise, and they are found in a range of work environments. Make sure that you have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) when using these or any other types of noisy equipment.
Consistent Ambient Noise
There are many places of work where you might find yourself exposed to high levels of noise throughout the day. This constant ambient noise might not appear as though it poses much danger to your hearing health. However, it can be just as damaging. Places like construction sites, sporting venues, amusement parks, concerts, and even bars are the sorts of work environments that can, over time, potentially cause occupational hearing loss if you are not careful.
Most types of heavy machinery, like cars, trains, and airplanes, produce incredible levels of noise. If you find yourself working in and around machinery that has loud engine noise, then you could be at risk. Airplane engines, in particular, can generate noise levels up to 140 dB, which is certain to cause serious damage almost immediately.
Effects of Occupational Hearing Loss
Hearing with clarity is something that we often overlook or take for granted. Hearing health is hugely important because occupational hearing loss and exposure to high noise levels can have a range of adverse effects on your physical and mental health. These include:
Tinnitus is a ringing sensation in the ears, and although it can occur naturally, it is usually a sign of hearing damage. Tinnitus can be highly distressing and affect the sufferer’s sleep and speech. Unfortunately, tinnitus is fairly common and affects roughly 8% of all workers.
Stress and Depression
The impact of hearing loss is an enormously stressful and upsetting experience, which has been proven to also increase the risk of depression.
Hearing loss leaves sufferers struggling to communicate with the people around them. Not only can this leave sufferers feeling isolated, but it can also directly affect their personal relationships.
Impaired communication can also mean that hearing loss sufferers have fewer jobs and educational opportunities.
How to Protect Yourself from Occupational Hearing Loss
The best way to protect yourself from occupational hearing loss is to be proactive about it. If you are concerned about your hearing health or believe that your employer hasn’t introduced suitable protocols or health and safety measures, then you should bring it up.
If you work in a noisy environment, make sure that you always use some form of PPE, like hearing protection. It is also important to get regular check-ups with your local hearing specialist. Our hearing specialists at Hearing Group offer a comprehensive hearing appointment to examine your hearing health and diagnose any signs of hearing loss.
Living with Occupational Hearing Loss
Although it is not always possible to recover your hearing, there are things you can do to help live with hearing loss. As well as support services like hearing therapy, which enables you to manage the psychological effects of hearing loss, there is also a range of communication tips.
One of the most effective ways of coping with hearing loss is by investing in hearing aids. These delicate electronic devices help reduce the impact of your hearing loss and allow you to hear with ease and clarity. If you are interested in investing in a pair of your own hearing aids, then get in touch with Hearing Group’s local hearing aid specialists and find out all there is to know about these discrete hearing solutions.
Don’t let a noisy work environment ruin your life. Book your free hearing test with Hearing Group, and let us help you look after your hearing health.