A severe loss of hearing can affect productivity and the ability to communicate effectively. It can also cause psychological and physical stress and increase workplace risks.
Hearing protection at work is a relatively simple way to prevent long-term hearing loss that may last your entire life. You should exercise caution and wear the proper personal protection equipment to ensure that occupational workplace noise hazards do not permanently damage your hearing.
6 Noise Hazards at Work You Need to Be Aware Of
Hearing loss can sometimes occur after a single exposure such as an explosion. However, it is much more common for hearing loss to develop slowly over time. Loud noises at work can result in temporary hearing loss or a ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and they can sometimes be permanent. You should be aware of the following workplace noise hazards:
1. Heavy machinery
Large pieces of equipment generate a substantial amount of occupational noise. From agriculture to construction, waste management, industrial manufacturing, and various processing plants, machines used to manufacture and process materials are often large and loud. Despite the fact that every company has its own rules and regulations, it is crucial to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
2. Pneumatic tools
Power tools that use high-pressure air make a lot of noise. Over time, these types of instruments might cause hearing loss at the workplace if no prevention measures are taken.
3. Impact tools
There are many high-impact tools that can cause substantial hearing loss in the workplace over time, including drop hammers, riveters, and drop forges.
4. Construction work areas
Anytime there is the constant use of high power tools, or heavy equipment that requires a variety of energy sources to operate, occupational noise risks should be taken into consideration for employees. On a daily basis, construction zones use equipment that exceeds healthy sound levels. Construction laborers face occupational noise hazards daily, ranging from hand tools to heavy equipment.
5. Any workplace with loud ambient noise
Many people appreciate the adrenaline of being in a crowded bar, but there could be potential damage to your ears. Amusement parks, concerts, bars, or other workplaces where vacuums or handheld devices like hand dryers or backpack blowers are constantly running can cause occupational hearing loss.
6. Military bases and airports
You should wear hearing protection if you live and work on a base, work at an airport, or live near a runway. As a result of the loud sounds from airplanes and heavy machinery around the airport, many airport workers become deaf over time or suffer hearing loss.
Your employer should monitor noise levels in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that if noise levels consistently exceed 85 dB in an 8-hour workday, employers should take immediate action to protect employees from noise while reducing employee exposure to sound. Even if it isn’t possible to change the equipment or upgrade it, providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment is usually sufficient to preserve their hearing.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss in the Workplace
OSHA suggests three ways to reduce exposure to harmful noise and prevent hearing loss:
The use of engineering controls, such as changing or replacing equipment, allows physical adjustments to be made at the source of noise or along the route of sound transmission to reduce worker noise levels. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as lubricating a squeaky bearing or enclosing the source of the noise.
These workplace improvements can lessen or eliminate a worker’s exposure to noise. Your workplace can offer shifts to reduce the length of time a person spends at the noise source. An employer can even provide a quiet place for workers to rest their ears between exposures.
Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs)
Wearing active or passive hearing protection devices, such as ear plugs or earmuffs, reduces decibel exposure and prevents hearing loss. Ear plugs and earmuffs are two common options for construction workers. OSHA rates ear plugs by using the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). A hearing protection with greater noise reduction potential will have a higher NRR value.
Make the Prevention of Hearing Loss a Priority at Your Workplace
Preventing long-term hearing damage in the workplace can be achieved in the greatest part by being proactive. When hearing loss develops gradually, it is easy for it to go undetected until irreversible damage has been done to the ear.
Many workplaces from construction sites to airports to bars can produce hazardous decibel levels. Heavy machinery and high-powered tools can also pose a danger to workers’ hearing for long periods. When these noise levels are controlled and HPDs are used correctly, exposure to these levels of noise can reduce the risk of hearing loss.
We offer audiology testing for establishing pre-employment baselines and to determine if hearing loss is present. This can help catch problems early and help establish whether your noise prevention protocols are effective.