As the name suggests, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a slow and irreversible loss of hearing which can be entirely avoided by taking the necessary precautions. NIHL can be debilitating, affect quality of life and trigger tinnitus, which may be permanent and distressing.
Whenever somebody is exposed to excessively high doses of noise, they are likely to experience ‘temporary threshold shift’, where they will display elevated hearing levels in a hearing test. Repeated exposure to noise results in damage to the microscopic hair cells within the cochlea (the organ of hearing). This damage will typically be worse at levels naturally amplified by the ear (approximately 4 KHz), which are vital frequencies for the perception of speech.
Knowing noise at work levels is absolutely vital for employers and workers who want to avoid the onset of NIHL. Hiring an acoustic consultant to find out the amount of noise that workers are being exposed to is vital; if workers be exposed to noise over 85 dB consistently, or exceptionally loud sounds, then their hearing may be at risk. It is a legal requirement for employers to protect their worker’s hearing should noise levels exceed a certain level.
Business that operate within typically high-noise sectors (such as manufacturing, recycling and entertainment), must provide hearing protection for their workers and regularly check their hearing thresholds. This legal requirement came into effect on April 6th 2006 and is thought to be a contributing factor to the increase of NIHL civil cases within the UK. Employee hearing tests can take as little as 15 minutes per person and can act as an early warning sign against NIHL.
Personal hearing protection is a quick, simple and extremely effective means of ensuring that workers do not develop NIHL. There are many different styles of personal hearing protection and acoustic consultants can advise on many aspects including necessity, cost-effectiveness and suitability for a workforce.