Exposure to excessive loud noise for an extended period at a workplace can lead to hearing loss commonly classified as industrial hearing loss. Studies indicate that around 1 million of Australia’s working population is susceptible to this type of hearing impairment.
Although workplace noise can cause permanent damage to a person’s ear cells, industrial hearing loss is preventable. Keep reading to learn more about such hearing loss and everything related to it.
Who is at High Risk for Industrial Hearing Loss?
People in the age range of 20-65 years working in noisy environments are more likely to suffer from industrial hearing loss. Also, cases of hearing health issues are more common among people working in industries involving loud noise. Here is a list of such industries which are considered the damaging sources of industrial hearing loss.
- Mining Industry
- Military Industry
- Construction Industry
- Oil and Gas Extraction Industry
- Agriculture Industry
- Transport Industry
- Industrial Cleaning
- Manufacturing Industry
- Music Industry
What Causes Industrial Hearing Loss?
Continuous exposure to high levels of noise damages the fine hair cells inside a person’s inner ear. Such damages are irreversible and prevent any sound from generating nervous response, thus gradually affecting the person’s ability to hear.
A significant level of sound above 80 decibels is considered loud and can cause industrial hearing loss. It can also cause immediate damage in case of explosions and lead to permanent hearing impairment.
What are the Symptoms of Industrial Hearing Loss?
The symptoms of industrial hearing loss occur gradually when noise exposure damages the inner ear cells. It affects an individual’s hearing ability and results in several hearing difficulties. Although it varies from person to person, the most common symptoms of such hearing loss are listed below.
- Inability to hear conversations in background noise
- Difficulty hearing the sound of television or radio in a mild volume
- Muffled or distorted hearing
- Reduced hearing or feeling a sense of pressure in one ear
- Hearing a constant sound of buzz in the ears or experiencing tinnitus
- Earache while hearing high-pitched sounds
How to Prevent Industrial Hearing Loss in the Workplace?
One can adopt some preventive measures to reduce the gradual impact and high risks of industrial hearing loss.
- Identify and avoid the particular sources making high-pitch sounds such as machinery/tools and other equipment contributing to noise exposure at the workplace
- Limit or move away from the source of a loud sound at the workplace if possible
- Hire a professional safety representative at the workplace and organise hearing loss awareness programmes
- Seek routine medical check-ups at a licensed hearing clinic
- Use noise control devices during exposure to loud noise
- Avoid exposure to ototoxic chemicals
Industrial hearing loss can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Therefore, all individuals working in a noisy environment or experiencing potential hearing issues must consult an audiologist or a specialist.