Could You Be Experiencing Work Related Hearing Loss?

Our ears are really quite delicate and sensitive instruments, made of tiny bones and receptive to even the tiniest vibration. Unfortunately, when we are working in industrial environments with the sounds of drilling machines, hammers, engines and other loud mechanical noises, this can take a toll on our delicate ears.

Many employees in the UK are exposed on a daily basis to levels of noise in their workplace that could be harmful to their hearing. If your ears are subject to this noise on a daily basis, this can cause irreversible hearing loss and damage. You will not experience this immediately, but rather your sense of hearing will be gradually diminished over many years of your working life.

When you take noise training, the courses will cover the appropriate protective gear (PPE) to wear in order to shield your ears from the noise. In your health and safety courses you will also learn about how to reduce the risk of noise exposure in the workplace. This is why it is so important to take the appropriate health and safety course for your profession so that you can protect yourself from harm.

Are You At Risk?

How do you know if your workplace puts you at risk of industrial hearing loss? First of all, ask yourself if the noise is intrusive and carries on constantly for the entire day, such as the sound of a crowded restaurant, a busy street or a vacuum cleaner. Also, consider whether you need to raise your voice in order to have a normal conversation with your colleagues.

Even if you use a noisy power tool or piece of machinery for only a half hour every day, your hearing could be at risk. Also, another risk is one-time extremely loud sounds, such as from pneumatic impact tools, guns firing or cartridge operated detonators and tools. Think about how you feel at the end of the workday – is your hearing muffled? Even if it is better by the next morning, this can be a sign that your workplace is damaging your hearing.

Early Symptoms of Hearing Loss

When you are experiencing work related hearing loss, you will start to notice a number of symptoms. Perhaps you might find it difficult to follow conversation or keep track of dialogue when you are watching a film. If there is background noise, you might struggle to hear what someone is saying to you. You might also find that sounds are often muffled and that there is a ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus. You might not experience these symptoms right away, they will develop slowly over the years. Many people do damage to their hearing while they are younger, but don’t realise how much damage they have caused until they start to reach middle and old age.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Occupational Hearing Loss

Once your ears have been damaged from this type of noise exposure, they cannot be repaired by surgery. This is why it is important to reduce your exposure to noise in the first place, so that you can avoid becoming a victim of work related hearing loss.

When you take health and safety courses in your career, you should learn about how to reduce your exposure to noise so that you will not experience this type of hearing loss. Controlling noise is the first line of defence when it comes to hearing loss. It should be your goal to reduce your exposure to hazardous noise to the point that the risk of hearing is minimised or eliminated.

When you can reduce the noise by only a few decibels, you will also reduce the hazard to your hearing. There are a number of ways that you can reduce sound exposure levels and create a safer working place. You could replace or modify the equipment that you work with in order to make it quieter, or you could wear protective equipment. Also, maintaining the equipment and keeping the ball bearings lubricated is important, as this will help to reduce the noise.

You could also use curtains or sound walls to place a barrier between yourself and the noise, to keep it quieter. Your employer can also enact administrative controls that will help to reduce the risk of noise exposure. They can limit the amount of time that each employee spends at a noise source and they can also provide quiet areas where workers can get relief from exposure to loud noise sources. It is also possible to restrict the presence of workers to an appropriate distance away from the noisy equipment.

When you can control noise exposure through distance, this is a very simple and inexpensive – but effective – control. Whenever you move a worker away from a noise source, their risk of hearing loss is diminished. It is also possible for workers to wear earplugs and earmuffs, but these solutions are not as desirable. They can protect against hearing, but they are not as effective as you might think and reducing noise exposure in general is a better strategy.

Whose Responsibility Is It?

Who is responsible for ensuring that employees are protected from hearing loss and noise exposure?

If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure that all of your employees are protected from the risk of industrial hearing loss. This means that you need to assess all possible risks and identify measures that will help you eliminate risks. Make sure that hearing protection is provided and used correctly by your employees.

Also, if you are an employee you have a role in the world related hearing loss process. When you are in the workplace and you experience a problem with your hearing protection or noise control device, you should let your employer or safety representative know as soon as possible, also if you are experiencing any symptoms of hearing loss your employer should know immediately.

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