To a lot of people, hearing loss is just an issue that the elderly need to worry about. Although deafness can occur naturally with age, there is an alarming number of workers suffering from noise induced hearing loss. The two forms can be easily confused as hearing loss due to working environments will occur slowly over time so isn’t always recognized until later in life. Your employer has to by law protect you from noise or they could be subject to hearing loss compensation claims against them.
The two forms of deafness can be differentiated due to the parts of hearing that are affected. Noise induced hearing loss will only deteriorate the hearing capability of the high frequencies. This will mean that a sufferer will struggle to hear sounds such as children’s speech and the TV. Other forms of hearing loss affect the whole spectrum of frequencies. A simple hearing test performed by a doctor or audiologist will determine this.
One of the reasons why work causes industrial deafness so often is the fact that people are not aware of the sounds capable of causing hearing loss. Sounds of 85dB and above have the capacity to do damage. This isn’t as loud as you may think. Busy traffic often exceeds this so as you can imagine, many people are exposed to much louder sounds in work. The time periods of exposure also have an influence over the possibility and extent of any hearing loss. Certain volumes become dangerous after certain lengths of time that people are subjected to it. If someone is exposed to 85dB it would require 8 hours of exposure to cause hearing loss. With every 5dB increase in volume, this time is halved. Worryingly this means that a chainsaw of 110dB would cause damage after only a matter of minutes.
Preventing hearing loss should be easy. There are many methods to do this and no excuses for exposing workers to dangerous noise levels. The first action considered should be to address the noise at its source. This is the best form of protection as it will ensure no one is exposed to sounds of a level that could lead to permanent deafness. This can be done by installing new machinery, sound proofing, lubrication, new methods to name a few. Personal protection such as ear muffs or plugs should only be used as a short term measure whilst the origin is being looked at. Ear plugs are usually utilised for longer periods of use due to their light weight and comfort. Ear muffs are the choice when a higher level of protection is needed.
If you feel that you work in a noisy environment you need to take action straight away. Discuss it with your management who should apply preventative measures. If they don’t do this you should then take legal advice. You may be granted a hearing loss claim but it is more important to prevent any damage being done in the first place. Developing hearing loss can have a big impact on your quality of life so anything that can be done to prevent it should be pursued.