Hearing loss is typically painless, and NIHL (noise-induced hearing loss) is one of the most common, preventable work-related illnesses worldwide. Occupational hearing loss is a permanent, non-treatable condition. This can cause several issues for employers and employees, especially when a person’s ability to communicate on the job becomes impaired.
What is noise?
Noise is unwanted sound measured on a decibel scale. Noise levels for some familiar sounds are shown below. It is important to note that noise exposure does not just occur at work. Any loud activities that you participate in during your free time add to your safe noise exposure levels for the day.
What if you are overexposed to noise?
Excessive noise damages sensitive structures in the inner ear that cannot be repaired, resulting in irreversible hearing loss. This type of hearing loss distorts sound, making it less clear.
People who have hearing loss miss out on conversations and interactions with others. They are less likely to engage in social activities and can put themselves and others at risk on the job site when hearing loss impedes their ability to hear warning signals and other important cues. Hearing loss is also associated with other harmful conditions including dementia. – WorkSafe BC
What are Safe Noise Levels?
The legal limit for workers is an 8-hour average noise exposure of 85 dB, or a 10-hour average noise exposure of 84 dB. This limit is enforced by Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S).
Noise exposure occurs exponentially and with every 3 dB increase, safe exposure duration is reduced by half. If you work with impact noise, exposure levels will be around 25 seconds at 114 dB, which is why hearing protection is critical.
Latest Articles: Hearing Loss Prevention & Protection
Initial Signs of Hearing Loss
You have difficulty hearing people when they speak.
You’re frequently asking people to repeat themselves.
You have a hard time hearing women’s and children’s voices.
You favour one ear over the other.
You have a ringing sensation in one or both ears.
People tell you that you seem to have difficulty hearing
Custom-Molded Ear Plugs
Despite the dangers of hearing loss, 24% of noise-exposed workers report that they often fail to wear noise protection PPE regularly. There are various styles of hearing protection and the right selection depends on a variety of factors, from the nature of the job to your individual comfort.
SureHire offers custom-moulded earplugs made of medical-grade silicone that is soft and durable enough to last 5 years or more with proper care. They also come with a protective case to prevent accidental loss. With a variety of styles to choose from, they can be customized to ensure appropriate attenuation. There are many benefits to using custom moulded hearing protection.
Interpreting Your Results
You may be wondering what the numbers on the back of your card mean…
- If one or more of the numbers in either ear are at 30 or higher in the frequencies .5k, 1k or 2k, the test is abnormal.
- If one or more of the numbers in either ear are at 65 or higher in the frequencies 3k, 4k, 6k or 8k, the test is abnormal.
- If there is a difference between the better and poorer ear exceeding the average of 30 dB at 3k, 4k or 6k, the test is abnormal due to one-sided hearing loss.
- Abnormal shift is calculated when compared against a previous hearing test.
Additional Prevention Tips
Loud machines and equipment are among the most common causes of harm to workers’ hearing. As a guideline, if you are within 1 metre of another person at work and have to shout to be heard, the noise level is likely excessive (WorkSafe BC). Several types of chemicals, including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals containing toxic substances, can impact hearing as well.
Both long-term exposure to noise and short-term exposure to higher levels of noise can adversely affect hearing, whether at work or at home. Risk prevention should take a multi-prong approach that includes training and education, engineering controls, administrative controls and use of PPE.
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