For those who work in industries such as manufacturing, construction, mining and transportation there are many risks involved with their jobs. One of them is the risk of employees losing their hearing due to noises they hear while at work, either because of the high level of noise or the constant exposure to it. To ensure that employees don’t unnecessarily put themselves in a position to lose their hearing, employers should provide employees with the training and equipment so that they can protect themselves while they are on the job.
The side effects for someone, if they lose their hearing, can range from mild to severe, but they all will affect their quality of life. These side effects can include:
Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the ears, and it can either be constant or irregular.
Reduced ability to hear high-pitch sounds: Individuals might not be able to hear certain noises like a whistle or a children's voice.
Difficulty hearing conversation: It may become more difficult for individuals to hear conversations, especially when they are in nosing environments.
Mental health issues: For individuals who’ve had no issues with their hearing their whole life, losing it can be distressing for them and cause them to feel anxious or depressed.
Cognitive decline: It has been shown in studies that there may be a link between those who have hearing loss and going through a cognitive decline.
To ensure employees won’t lose their hearing and experience those side effects, companies need to take a lot of action. They need to implement protections in the workspace, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for the employees on how they can safely do their job as well as the risk of hearing loss. Industries that work with high-pitch noises must implement engineering controls as it adds an extra layer of protection, whether it’s materials that can absorb those noises or bring in noise barriers. Then if those aspects malfunction or work the way they’re meant to, if the employees have PPE they’ll still be protected and won’t be left fully exposed. For these workplaces, it is suggested that employees wear earplugs or earmuffs that are held to an industry standard, not ones you can buy in the supermarket. On top of these layers of protection, if employees are given training that explains to them the risk of losing their hearing and the steps they can take to prevent it, it means they don’t need to only rely on the employers to keep them safe.
Like any issues within the parameters of work health and safety, hearing loss caused by exposure to noises from a workplace is something that can be avoided entirely. If employers take the right steps in knowing that their work can cause hearing loss, then if they have the right materials and PPE while also giving their employees training they can take comfort in knowing they’ve done everything right to keep their employees safe.