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Protecting Ears in the Workplace

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

While businesses often boast keeping their staff safe by making building sites free of physical hazards and providing hard hats, a health concern often overlooked in the workplace is noise-induced or industrial hearing loss.

According to research, about 50 percent of the American population will develop hearing loss. Many of these cases will be noise or work-induced.

Unfortunately, noise does not even need to be loud to cause hearing damage, which is likely why so many cases of industrial deafness arise. Any noise over 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Employers are legally liable for hearing loss compensation if they don’t take the necessary measures to protect their staff from noise.

Failing to protect staff from developing hearing loss leads to numerous negative consequences – loss of money through compensation claims, loss of motivation if a number of staff members develop hearing loss, loss of productivity and the inability to retain or recruit staff.

How Can You Protect Your Staff From Noise?

You should first run a risk assessment to test if your working environment is at a dangerous noise level. Both volume and length of exposure to noise are important in assessing the danger of the noise. The louder a sound, the more quickly hearing loss can occur.

For example, a noise of 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss in eight hours, while a noise of 90 dB causes hearing damage in four hours. A sound at 100 dB causes damage in one hour and noise at 110 dB causes loss of hearing in 15 minutes. With every five dB increase in volume, the length of exposure necessary to cause hearing loss is cut in half.

After assessing whether your workplace has dangerous noise levels, you can protect workers from the noise using two methods. You can first reduce noise at its source, to ensure your staff does not come into contact with dangerous noise levels at all, by sound proofing or using new machinery, lubrication or remote control.

While controlling the noise at its source is the safest and most cost efficient way to protect your staff from dangerous levels, it isn’t always possible, especially if protection is needed in the short term.

If reducing noise at the source is not possible, you can instead provide your staff with personal protection. Ear plugs tend to be small, light, comfortable and easier to wear for long periods of time, whereas ear muffs are larger and more uncomfortable but provide high levels of protection, generally for short periods of exposure.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss treatments in general or would like to know how to better equip your workplace, feel free to contact our team today to set up a consultation with a hearing care provider in your area!

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