A great majority of us spend a large amount of our lives at work so it is bound to have an influence on our health. This can be positive and negative dependent on the job and the individual. Some effects are very apparent such as injuries, happiness, self worth and stress but some manifest themselves over time and can be hard to spot. There has been a rise in hearing loss compensation as workers are now realising that their occupation has been damaging their hearing for years.
The great misconception had always been that hearing loss just occurs naturally with age. Although this is true for some, many people are suffering from noise induced hearing loss not presbycusis (age related deafness). It is possible to differentiate between the two due to the frequencies of your hearing are affected. Hearing loss caused by loud noise only impacts the high frequency end of your hearing. This will mean that someone will struggle to hear the door bell, female speech or the phone ringing. An audiogram shows someone's level of hearing and on this graph there will be a clear dip in the high frequency area. People suffering with age related hearing loss will show loss across the whole spectrum of their hearing.
Many jobs involve loud noise. This could be in construction, metal work, club/bartenders, farming, demolition or printing. You may think that it takes extreme noise to cause hearing loss but this isn't the case. Being exposed to to sounds of 85dB for 8 hours have the capacity to cause hearing loss. This is comparable to a vacuum cleaner, which isn't that loud. With every 5dB increase in sound, the time period to cause damage is halved. An example is that a club with music at 100dB can cause hearing loss in as little as an hour.
How do you avoid this occurring to you?
- The first course of action is to establish whether you work in an environment that is noisy enough to cause hearing loss. A good gage is that is if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone, the level is too loud.
- If you do work in a noisy environment, preventative measures should be put in place.
- Firstly the sound should be reduced at source. This can be achieved by lubricating or new machinery, sound proofing, isolation, automation and new methods.
- Protection such as ear muffs and plugs assist but should only be used as a short term precaution whilst the source is resolved.
- Take breaks. Noise causes hearing loss with extended periods of exposure. You can safely work with noise as long as it isn't for longer than the safe times explained above.
- When working in loud jobs you should have regular hearing checks to ensure that you have not been affected.
By law, your employer has to address the issue of noise in the workplace. If they don't, you would be eligible to make a hearing loss claim against them. Damage done by noise can be permanent and seriously affect your quality of life. If you feel that you are working in a loud job and aren't provided with any protection I would be advised to raise it with your boss, then local authority or a lawyer. Many people don't as they are worried about their job security but surely preserving your hearing is more important.
About Author: This is a guest post by Chris Evans.