Believe it or not, noise can be a serious health problem in the workplace. Constant loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss, and it can lead to accidents, injuries and expensive workers’ compensation claims. That’s why OSHA has a standard to cover hearing conservation. It is important to recognize the hazards of noise and what can be done to avoid problems. Temporary or permanent hearing loss are only two of the hazards associated with loud noise.
Other problems include:
- Fatigue – constantly straining to hear other people is tiring, and tired workers are more likely to have accidents.
- Stress – continuous loud noise is extremely irritating, causing accidents and illness.
- Missed directions or warnings – if you can’t hear properly, you might miss an important instruction or warning, resulting in a serious accident and injury.
Warning symptoms of hearing loss:
- Persistent ringing in the ears (which is called tinnitus)
- Difficulty hearing low or soft sounds (like the ticking of a watch)
- Frequent complaints that they’re playing the radio or TV too loudly
Some signs that you should be wearing hearing protection include:
- If you have to raise your voice for someone 3 feet away to hear you, the site is too noisy and you need hearing protection. You need hearing protection also if you’re operating on or near noisy equipment.
- If you have roaring or ringing noises in your ears at the end of the workday, you are probably being exposed to too much noise.
- If speech or music sounds muffled to you after you leave work, but it sounds fairly clear in the morning when you return to work, you are being exposed to noise levels that are causing a temporary hearing loss. In time, this can become permanent if you do not take care.
Proper Use of Hearing Protection:
- Hearing protection should not cause discomfort. If it does, ask if there are other options that you can try.
- If foam earplugs are used, they should be inserted correctly into the ear. This is done by squeezing the earplug so that it’s compressed fully, then opening the ear canal by pulling on the top part of the ear with the opposite hand, and carefully sliding the foam earplug into the ear. It is important to hold the earplug in place for 15 seconds, so that it expands properly inside the ear canal.
- Earmuffs are easy to use, but may not offer the same level of protection as most earplugs. Always check the Noise Reduction Rating of the earmuff or earplug to ensure you have the right level of protection.