10 million – that is the number of people in the UK with some degree of hearing loss. Of these, 3.7 million people are of working age i.e. between ages 16 and 64. These and more such shocking findings have been reported in the fact-sheet released by Action on Hearing Loss (formerly Royal National Institute for Deaf People). The report also found that the culture of the organisation has the biggest impact on the experience of the person suffering from hearing loss. “A supportive and flexible culture can enable a person with hearing loss to continue to fulfil their role effectively”, says the report.
Most hearing loss or tinnitus caused by noise exposure is permanent. Listening to sound at a high volume (above 89 decibels) for more than five hours a week can damage your hearing permanently. Therefore, it’s important to protect your hearing on the job, especially if you work in fields such as manufacturing, construction and extraction, energy and water supply. A report from Great Britain’s Health & Safety Executive found that noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) was most prevalent in these industries. The study further stated that in more than 19,000 cases NIHL was caused or made worse by work.
5 ways to protect your hearing
As they say ‘prevention is better than cure’. You can avoid unnecessary damage to your hearing by taking a few simple steps.
1) Employers have a legal duty to protect your hearing as per the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005). If you work in a noisy environment, your employer is obliged to provide you with hearing protection. If daily noise level reaches 85 decibels, you MUST wear ear protectors by law. Depending upon the noise levels, choose between earplugs, earmuffs and canal caps. Do not stuff cotton in your ears in place of earplugs; it doesn’t block the noise and you may damage your hearing further.
2) Don’t stand too close to noisy machinery for a long time, even if you’re wearing ear protectors.
3) Be aware of noises around you. Turn down the volume on radios, TVs and speakers. Be cautious when you use headphones; use the 60:60 rule – listen to music at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. If your job requires you to use headphones extensively (e.g. sound mixing, transcription etc.) set the volume at a low level, and take frequent breaks.
4) Give your ears a rest by taking breaks in a quiet area. Alternate a noisy activity with a quieter activity.
5) Seek your employer’s help in finding ways to reduce the noise levels at your workplace. Clearly marked noise and quiet zones and fixing acoustic tiles on the ceilings and walls are some ways of reducing noise.
If you work in a particularly noisy environment, make sure that you get your hearing tested regularly. At Leightons Hearing Care we provide free hearing tests and assessment. We will also consult you on how to protect your hearing at work. If you’re already suffering from some level of hearing loss, don’t delay getting appropriate treatment. Remember that people with hearing loss are protected from discrimination in employment by the Equality Act 2010. You can request your manager or employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to work optimally. Don’t let hearing loss stand in the way of a fulfilling career.