Save your hearing day – Top tips to reduce noise induced hearing loss

Industry News By Matthew Coombes

What is noise induced hearing loss?

Noise induced hearing loss occurs when we’re exposed to levels of noise that will be damaging to our ears. Inside your ears are tiny complex mechanisms that work together to translate soundwaves into sounds that our brain can understand.

Listening to loud noises or prolonged exposure to noise can damage our ears and reduce our ability to hear.

One of the main issues with hearing loss is that it is often a gradual process, and we may not realise that our hearing is being negatively affected until it is too late.

A good example of this is tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that can range drastically in volume. Sometimes it may not be noticeable and sometimes it can be very loud.

It is possible to experience tinnitus and still have a healthy range of hearing, but a loud ringing in your ears is often an unpleasant experience. Tinnitus can cause psychological stress and interrupt our sleeping.

Tinnitus can occur gradually or after a significantly loud sound (for example, an acoustic shock event like an explosion), and it can even be a symptom of stress.

But once you’ve got it, you know about it, because the ringing doesn’t often go away.

How can you protect your hearing?

  1. Smart technology – These days, many phones and smartwatches are able to monitor decibels in the environment and warn us if it’s exceeding the safe limits. This can be a great way to get an alert to a loud environment, and you can often find yourself surprised that the environment may be damaging to your health.

    A recent example is that I went to the pub with some friends, and the music (coming from a speaker 2m+ away) was around 87db, triggered a warning on the smartwatch as potentially damaging to hearing if exposed for longer than 45 minutes. When we moved, we realised just how loud the music was as we weren’t having to shout to talk to each other anymore.

  2. Hearing protection – There’s lots of different hearing protection on the market suitable for different tasks, different people, and personal preference. It might take some testing to find a solution that works for you, that feels comfortable, and that you can use it whenever you need to.

    Hearing protection can be uncomfortable because people often have differently shaped ear canals and outer ears, so it’s always worth trying a few different brands and styles to see what works best for your ears. It can also be a good idea to keep a spare pair in a pocket/van/car for when you inevitably drop them in mud or dust and they’re too far gone to be used!

    My go-to is just two squishy re-useable earplugs that mould themselves to my ear canal and come in their own container, like wireless earphones but much less expensive.

  3. Speak to your employer – A noisy work environment is best fixed through proactive management. This means that any equipment on site should be designed from the offset to be creating as little noise as possible. This can often be through the use of sound dampening, or just ensuring that equipment is well maintained, such as using grease or lubricants to prevent excess noise from moving machinery.

    Where this isn’t possible, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be provided to employees to reduce any risk of exposure to high decibels. There will always be some types of work that are inherently noisy, and don’t forget you can always wind up the new worker by sending them to get a silencer for the pneumatic drill…

    If this isn’t sufficient to control the risk, tasks should be rotated (in a similar way to HAVS, Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome), to ensure that no employee is exceeding the recommended limits. If the safe exposure time is 30 minutes per day, ensure that the task is rotated every 20 minutes to another worker to prevent over-exposure in any one individual.

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