Noise induced hearing loss

Sound is everywhere, at home, outside on the street and also on your workplace. When this sound is perceived as noise (unwanted sound)? And is this noise harmful? Lots of people are exposed to harmful noise and only a small percentage wear regularly hearing protectors. Every year numerous new cases of serious noise induced hearing loss are reported.  The best way to prevent noise induced hearing loss is an annual hearing test.

What is sound?

Sound is a form of energy that moves through air in waves of pressure. The speed with which air pressure variations succeed one another, determine the frequency or pitch of the sound. The volume is determined by the number and size of the air pressure changes. When exposed to sound via the ear and eardrum hair cells are activated. These hair cells need a rest period to recover. In this recovery period there is temporary hearing loss or deafness. If the hair cells don’t get the necessary rest period they die. This results in a permanent hearing loss because these hair cells cannot be replaced. The severity of the sound damage depends on the strength of the sound, exposure time and the individual sensitivity. The risk of hearing loss is different for individuals. The limit above which sound damage can occur is a weekly exposure of 40 hours at 80 db. Above this limit the risk of hearing damage increases quickly.

Annoying sound

If one is more or less annoyed by a dominant noise there is noise nuisance. These nuisances have a negative impact on how we work due to structural concentration problems, restrictions on speech communication, risk of accidents due to loss of warning signals in the ambient noise, fatigue, headaches, aggression, tension and sleep disorders. There is a risk of negative physical effects such as increased blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat and breathing and increased hormone production. The term noise is often used for unwanted noise, especially when it comes to high noise levels. Noise is dangerous as it increases risk of accidents or errors. Whether bothered by noise problems, apart from the noise also depends on the nature of the work, the degree of concentration required and the individual sensitivity.

Regulations in the workplace

On many jobs noise or harmful sound is a big problem. The employer is responsible for the exposure of workers to noise. The employer is obliged to take measures to prevent and reduce exposure to noise. A noisy situation is an undesirable situation. The associated risks should be eliminated or be reduced as much as possible. The employer is obliged have a written plan. In this plan should be written which the measures are to be taken to eliminate the risks or to limit them as much as possible. The best measure is of course to prevent the workers to be exposed to high noise levels.

Measures to be taken

In the first place you should be determining whether measures to the source are possible. The possibilities for noise control at the source are however often very limited. Often it is not possible to change machines and devices. From 80 decibel personal protective equipment should be available. Workers should be obliged to wear hearing protectors. The protective equipment must be strictly personal and in good condition. Protective equipment in poor condition offers a dangerous false security. The workers should be informed about the risks associated with working in harmful noise, the noise levels in their own working environment and all the important aspects of hearing protection. Another measure is to conduct a hearing test on a regular basis. In such an examination the sensitivity of the hearing examined. With a hearing test hearing loss can be detected early. This can prevent serious noise induced hearing loss. On the internet free online hearing tests can be found.