Business leaders in all industries and sectors value the safety of their employees, from senior management to the bottom line. However, when the risk of occupational hazards increases in certain professions, preventative measures to protect employees become increasingly crucial in business. The risks increase significantly when employees are exposed to consistent loud noise as part of their daily role.
A deep understanding of the causes, effects and prevention measures available can help to protect employees at risk.
Loud Noises: One of the Leading Causes of Hearing Degradation
Loud noises commonly cause hearing loss over time. Specifically, the inner compartments of the ear easily become damaged when the ear is exposed to repeated, regular loud noises over a long period of time.
Noise-induced hearing loss is similar to age-related hearing loss, where regular exposure to loud noises speeds up the process of natural hearing degradation over time. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs due to damage to the cochlea. The cochlea is a coiled, spiral tube section in the inner ear where sensitive hair cells become tarnished.
Types of Hearing Degradation
1. Acoustic Shock
Noise-induced hearing degradation usually occurs over a long period of time with regular exposure. However, sudden noise-induced damage, often known as acoustic trauma, can occur as a result of an extremely loud, sudden noise, such as explosions or technical errors in machinery. The risk of acoustic trauma accentuates the importance of proper protective measures for employees from poor occupational ear hygiene. Prevention is significantly more effective than treatment or cure, with some damage becoming long-lasting and permanent.
Tinnitus refers to sufferers experiencing ringing in the ears or hearing different disruptive sounds such as hissing, buzzing, whistling or humming. Tinnitus usually occurs as the result of long-term damage to the inner ear caused by over-exposure to loud noises. Because tinnitus occurs over a long period of time, it can be difficult to notice before it is too late.
3. Loss of Frequency Perception
When sufferers experience loss of frequency perception, they are likely to find difficulty in understanding basic sounds, such as conversations or other low-frequency sounds. Loss of frequency perception usually occurs as a result of sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage to the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss can often cause loss of frequency perception when the employee is exposed to loud noise unprotected over a long period of time.
Preventing Noise-induced Hearing Loss in the Workplace
Business leaders are aware that employees in certain roles within certain industries are significantly at risk. Those who use compressed-air hammers or pneumatic drills are particularly at risk, while those who work in mining or data centres need to also be aware of occupational hearing degradation.
The good news is that protective ear plugs and headsets can make an important difference in protecting ear health of employees. Sensear ear plugs are subtle and practical for employees in a wide range of industries.
It will be crucial for all managers and industry leaders to complete a full review of the noise-induced occupational risks. Workers of any age are at risk of hearing degradation, while older employees have a slightly higher risk.
For further information about the different types of hearing degradation from occupational aural damage, as well as the causes and preventions for your workforce, please contact our specialists. If you suspect you may already be experiencing hearing loss, download our 7 Degrees of Hearing loss infographic below.
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