Noise At Work

Sustained exposure to high levels of noise may lead to noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). The UK’s hard of hearing and deaf population exceeds 9 million individuals with the overwhelming causes linked to age related hearing loss and noise induced hearing loss. Reducing the effects of noise induced hearing loss is a target for UK businesses for a number of reasons:

●     Hearing loss can lead to reduced productivity in the work place

●     The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work.

●     For the vast majority of hearing loss causes, once damage has been done, it is permanent

In this article we will explain how noise induced hearing loss happens and review some of the noise protection products available in the market.

How We Hear and What Goes Wrong?

Parts of the Ear

Our ears are divided into three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Hearing involves all three parts as sound travels through each part of the ear to the brain where the information is interpreted. If any of those sections of the ear are damaged, blocked or otherwise negatively affected in some way, hearing loss can result. Noise induced hearing loss is referred to as a ‘sensorineural hearing loss’ since it results from damage/deterioration of the tiny hair cells within cochlea of the inner ear. 

Noise induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to harmful sound or a sudden, brief but intense noise trauma like an explosion to the ear. The degree of any resultant hearing loss will depend on the level of the noise and the duration of exposure. 

The Noise Regulations require you to take specific action at certain action values. These relate to:

  • the levels of exposure to noise of your employees averaged over a working day or week;
  • and the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.

The values are:

  • lower exposure action values at which the employer has to provide information and training and make hearing protection available:
    • daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
    • peak sound pressure of 135 dB;
  • upper exposure action values above which the employer is required to take reasonably practicable measures to reduce noise exposure, such as engineering controls or other technical measures. The use of hearing protection is also mandatory if the noise cannot be controlled by these measures, or while these measures are being planned or carried out.
    • daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
    • peak sound pressure of 137 dB. Above which no worker can be exposed (taking hearing protection into account).

 Ways To Reduce Noise Induced Hearing Loss?

Reducing NIHL could involve any combination of solutions; including setting and adhering to noise policies, and using hearing protection.

Wearing ear plugs – Usually carrying an upper ceiling noise protection of 20dB, earplugs can be disposable, one-size-fits all options or custom-made aids that fit exactly to the ear canal of the user.

Earmuffs – can carry a higher upper ceiling noise protection limit than earplugs, and cover the user’s ear completely. The degree of noise protection will vary depending on their measured standard. Earmuffs can be warn together with earplugs, thereby increasing the effective protection. It is generally not advisable to ‘over’ protect as this can lead to wearers feeling isolated from their environments or a reduced awareness of potential dangers.

Training – Learning why and how to use hearing protection and adhering to quieter processes should be made available to employees by means of training.

Precaution – Access to hearing-health professionals should be offered so that hearing tests can be done. Despite wearing hearing protection, employees who are at risk due to noisy processes or equipment should be encouraged to take regular hearing tests.

Written by Joan McKechnie BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hearing Direct, which offers a range of hearing equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing such as hearing aid batteries and other accessories.

LEIGHTON BUZZARD – A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS!

Business gurus met with Leighton Buzzard enterprises at a major networking event in the town on 31 March to promote the best the area has to offer.

The ‘Get Connected in Leighton’ spring trade fair comprised an exhibition of 29 stands, VIP speakers and scores of visitors at Brooklands Middle School. Officially opened by Cllr Gordon Perham, Mayor of Leighton Linslade, the event was jointly sponsored by LB Connect and the Bedfordshire and Luton Chamber of Commerce.

Having a head office in Leighton Buzzard is one of the reasons behind major logistics company Polar Speed’s continuous growth over the last 15 years, explained Brian McKay, Director Supply Chain of the £15m turnover company. He said Polar Speed, which today employs nearly 200 people in 13 locations throughout the UK, will always have its main base in the town because of its strategic position and the strength and energy of the local workforce.

“The evening was a great success and we achieved all our objectives for LB Connect and Leighton’s business community,” says Bob Chandler, chairman of LB Connect, the 23-strong networking group launched in July last year.

Visitors heard the current economic forecast from Steve Hughes, a senior executive at the British Chambers of Commerce.

Local Chamber chairman, Brian Hibbert – himself a Leighton Buzzard resident – also gave a summary of business prospects in the region and highlighted the various types of support being offered to local enterprises.

Thanks to a raffle for a huge cake, the event also raised £109 for Buzzer Buses, the local charity supported by LB Connect, while several of its members supported an enterprise initiative being run for pupils at Brooklands School.

For further information about the rapidly expanding business networking group, visit the LB Connect website: www.lbconnect.co.uk