Industrial deafness, also referred to as noise induced hearing loss, is a condition that impairs a person’s hearing due to long exposure to loud noises. Exposure to loud noises for a long period of time can cause temporary and even permanent loss of hearing and can cause conditions such as acoustic shock syndrome in a person that has been exposed to a loud unexpected sound.
Acoustic shock disorder is an involuntary response when a person is exposed to a ‘traumatic acoustic incident’ which causes symptoms such as tinnitus, hyperacousis and psychological symptoms like post-traumatic stress disorder and phonophobia. People that have been exposed to acoustic shock usually describe the shock as feeling like they have been stabbed or electrocuted in the ear. Symptoms can be of short, temporary duration or they can be permanent – requiring further treatment.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss can be prevented by following these steps:
- Protective earmuffs are earplugs should be worn when exposed to high noise levels for a long time. If your workplace is constantly noisy then taking off your protective equipment even for a few seconds can expose you to damaging ear levels.
- Look after your hearing protection so that they always work correctly. If your protection gets damaged, let your employer know and get them fixed/replaced straight away.
- Try to position yourself in a way that the machines sound isn’t in a direct path to your ear, causing the sound to pierce your ears.
- Don’t stay in a high volume are for long periods of time. Take breaks from the area where volumes are the loudest and retreat to a quieter place.
- Let your employer know about any unnoticed hearing hazards. Letting your employer know about hazards will not only help yourself but also work colleagues.
Employers should regularly measure the level of noise in your workplace and if you think anything extra can be done to ensure the safety of others’ hearing then you should never be too afraid to mention it to your employer. Damage to your hearing is almost always permanent so putting yourself at risk of hearing loss can be devastating to some. Legally, employers are required to provide information about industrial deafness, along with training and proper hearing protection for employees that are exposed to consistent noise levels over 80dB.
There are many environments that yield risk factors associated with hearing loss, some noises which you should be mindful of are:
- Invasive Noise. Exposure to this kind of noise can result in Industrial Deafness, it can be found in loud nightclubs, outside on a busy street, around loud cleaning equipment and factories with loud machines.
- Noise that causes you to raise your voice. If you are in an area where you cannot have a normal conversation with someone standing 2 metres away without raising your voice then you could be at risk of being affected by hearing damage.
- Industrial Equipment. Working in industries such as construction, mining, engineering and foundries exposes you to dangerous levels of noise as these industries use loud machinery as a necessity. Using loud tools or machines for just 30 minutes a day could cause industrial deafness.
- Loud Impact Noises. This includes noises such as gunshots, explosives or hammering. Listening to constant loud impact noises can expose you to permanent hearing damage.
It is important that measures are taken to prevent permanent hearing damage, so if any of these bullet points are relevant to you, then you should consider notifying your employer and protect yourself with earmuffs or earplugs.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 stipulates certain requirements that an employer (and employee) should follow in order to reduce noise exposure in the workplace. These requirements include the responsibility to assess the risks to employees from noise at work, to take action to reduce noise exposure, to provide employees with hearing protection if noise reduction cannot be achieved, to make sure the legal limits of noise exposure are not exceeded, to provide employees with information, instruction and training, and to carry out health surveillance.
Employers should also identify hearing protection zones correctly to show areas where hearing protection is compulsory. These zones should be marked with signs that are easy to see. Proper information on caring for your hearing protection should be available to employees and the employee should ensure that hearing protectors are properly used and maintained. Potential noise exposure and risks should be outlined, and what can be to done to control the risks. Information on where and how people can obtain hearing protection should be easily accessible, and information on how to report defects in protective equipment.
Personal Injury Lawyers such as Bartlett Solicitors who deal with industrial/world related personal injury accidents are able to handle claims for Industrial Deafness, to advise employees with legal advice for how to claim compensation for their injuries.