Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland. One third of hearing loss is preventable.
What is work related hearing loss?
This is hearing loss as a direct result of over-exposure to noise in the workplace. It is also referred to as noise induced hearing loss. It is estimated that over forty per cent of those who work all their lives at high noise levels find it difficult to hear a normal conversation and find it particularly difficult hearing conversation in a group setting.
Exposure to high levels of noise can result in tinnitus (a buzzing sensation in the ears), and if exposed over long periods of time, permanent hearing loss. When we think of work-related hearing loss, long term exposure to harmful noise levels is most commonly thought of but hearing loss on the job can also come from a single instance of high decibel noise exposure as well as exposure to ototoxic chemicals. (Ototoxic chemicals may damage the cochlea in the inner ear and/or the auditory neurological pathways leading to hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo).
The important factors when assessing the long-term effect of noise is the level of noise and the duration of exposure to that noise.
Top five occupations causing hearing loss.
1. Manufacturing – Loud machinery, compressed air and the constant noise levels from manufacturing processes. Statistics say that as many as eight out of 10 of those in manufacturing have noise-related hearing loss.
2. Construction / Carpentry / Mining – The tools used in these professions tend to be well over the recommended limit of 85 decibels (dB).
3. Entertainment / Nightlife – People employed in the entertainment or nightlife sectors are exposed night after night to music levels reaching over 100dB.
4. Military – From gunfire, explosions and the roar of aircraft engines, hearing quickly becomes vulnerable (with some explosive noise levels reaching up to 180dB!).
5. Agriculture / Farming – With daily exposure from a young age to high levels of noise from machinery and equipment, farmers experience high levels of work-related hearing loss.
What should my employer do to protect my hearing?
Under the regulations, employers are required to reduce the level of noise in the workplace to the lowest level reasonably practicable. This may be done by:
Reducing the noise at the source, for example by enclosing the noise source, relocation of noisy machinery or machine modifications
If exposure to noise is likely to exceed 80 dB and it is not technically possible to reduce noise, as a last resort, the employer must provide suitable and adequate ear protection, i.e., earmuffs or earplugs.
Remember ear protection is only suitable if worn correctly and so training may be necessary.
Hearing loss has no cure, protect your hearing always!
Check out 3M’s 4 step Hearing Conservation Programme
3M™ PELTOR™ Optime™ I Earmuffs
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