Hearing loss caused at work is preventable, but once your hearing has gone, it very rarely comes back. Some 17,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears and other ear conditions caused by excessive noise at work.
Am I at risk?
People who work in noisy conditions everyday won’t always realise the long term damage that could be affecting your hearing. If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are at risk –
- Is the noise you work with intrusive – like a busy street, loud machinery, or a crowded restaurant/bar – for most of the working day?
- Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day?
- Do you use noisy power tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
- Do you work in a noisy industry – construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries?
- Are there noises because of impacts (hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns?
- Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the next morning?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, speak to your employer. He / She is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment (see HSE for more information) including – identifying where there may be a risk, who is likely to be affected and to obtain an estimate of their employees’ exposure to noise.
Symptoms of hearing loss –
- Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up high
- Difficulty hearing the telephone or doorbell
- Regularly feeling tired or stressed, due to having to concentrate closely while listening
Hearing loss is often gradual and you may not notice it at first. Being aware of the early signs can help you identify the problem quickly. It’s important to spot hearing loss as soon as possible because treatment is often more beneficial if started early.
If you’re interested in finding out how many decibels you’re being exposed to at work, there are several different decibel measuring apps you can download onto your smartphone to give you a rough idea!
For a full guide on what to do if you think you’re at risk of excessive noise exposure, read the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guide to noise at work.
Article compiled by: Laura Pay-Savage