Noise is all around us and forms part of our everyday lives. However, with hearing issues being one of the most common ailments in factory workers, it is important to provide hearing protection at work. Too much noise can cause permanent damage, loss of hearing or tinnitus (constant ringing noise in the ears).
By the time you notice you are having difficulty conversing with your family and friends, or someone complains about how loud you have the television, it is probably too late. Hearing damage can only be improved with hearing aids, so prevention is key.
In the workplace, your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noises. Here are some measures they should put in place:
- Switching to quieter equipment if possible
- Making sure you are not exposed to loud noise for long periods
- Providing hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs
Is there a noise problem where I work?
It can be hard to determine whether or not your workplace is causing you to experience hearing issues. If any of the following conditions apply, your employer is expected to do something about the noise:
- The noise is intrusive for most of the working day. This includes things like constant vacuuming, a busy street, or constant loud machinery working.
- If you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation with someone who is only 2 metres away from you.
- You use noisy, powered tools or machinery for more than 30 minutes a day.
- The type of work you carry out is known to have noisy tasks – for example if you work in construction, demolition, road repair or similar.
- If you are exposed to noises as a result of impact – e.g. hammering, drilling, pneumatic tools.
What steps should I be taking?
Whether you are starting to show signs of hearing difficulties, or you have muffled hearing at the end of the workday, you need to let your employer know. Here are some other duties that you are responsible for adhering to:
- Co-operate with your employer and let them know how they can help protect your hearing. Make sure you follow any procedures they have put in place to protect you.
- Wear hearing protection you are given. You should have received training on how to correctly wear hearing protection, and make sure you wear it at all times when you are in hearing protection zones.
- Look after your hearing protection. You should have been given information on how to prevent your hearing protection from being damaged. This can also be found in the User Instructions which should be supplied with the hearing protection.
- Attend hearing checks. It is important to undergo regular checks to monitor the deterioration of your hearing. The sooner any issues are detected, the sooner you can prevent any further damage.
- Report any problems. If your hearing protection is no longer working or has become damaged, it is your responsibility to notify your employer.
Personal hearing protection
Hearing protection should be right for both you and the environment that you are in. It should reduce the noise by the correct amount, and be comfortable to wear. There are many types of hearing protection available, but let’s have a look at the main ones you probably are already aware of.
Earmuffs should cover your ears completely, with no gaps around the seals. You should be careful not to stretch the headband too as the tension on this is crucial to protect your ears. The ear cushions are made from foam for added comfort.
Earplugs go right into the ear canal and it may take some practice to fit and remove them correctly. Remember to clean your hands before you fit the earplugs, and don’t share them with anyone else. Some earplugs are disposable and are only suitable for wearing once, whilst others can be washed and are reusable. Just make sure you know which you have been given!
Earpods are perfect for when hearing protection is only required intermittently. They are often banded for easy fit and removal, and are a lightweight design. As with any ear protection, they have different SNR ratings so make sure you have the correct level of protection that you need.
We hope this article has been useful, and you now have a better understanding of how to keep your ears protected at work. If you would like any further help or advice, please feel free to call the team on 08455 444 000, or email [email protected].