What is Noise Induced hearing Loss (NIHL)?
NIHL is irreversible damage to the ears which is caused by exposure to loud noises.
What causes it?
NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound such as an explosion of continuous exposure to loud sounds overan extended period of time e.g. constant background noise from machinery equipment at work.
Why should you be concerned?
Exposure to too much noise can cause hearing damage that is permanent and disabling. This can be gradual to noise exposure over time, but damage can also be caused by sudden extremely loud noises. The damage is disabling in that it can stop people being able to understand speech, keep up with conversations or use the telephone.
You may develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition known to disturb sleep.
Noise at work can interfere with communications and make warnings harder to hear, it can also reduce your awareness of your surroundings.
What are the signs to look for?
- Muffled or distorted hearing
- Difficulty in understanding speech during telephone conversations or whilst participating in group discussions
- Pain or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) after exposure to excessively loud noises
Who is at risk?
You are at risk if you work in an environment known to have noisy tasks e.g. construction, demolition, road repair, woodworking, plastic processing engineering, textile manufacture, general fabrication, waste and recycling etc.
Or if you use noisy power tools or machinery in excess of 30 minutes each day.
How can you prevent it?
- Use any noise control devices e. g noise enclosures and follow the safe systems of work put in place
- Wear any hearing protection that you are given. Taking it off, even for a short period of time reduces the overall protection you get
- Attend hearing checks and appointments arranged by your employer
- Report any problems with the noise control measures put into place by your employer