Why Are Earplugs at Work Necessary to Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Most people don't realise how fragile their eardrums actually are. And when they do realise it, it's already too late. Imagine what going to work every day and being exposed to constant loud noises is doing to your ears. You might not immediately perceive it, but long exposure to loud noises can seriously damage your ears.
What's more troubling about this is that ear damage is irreversible. The damage is permanent and long-term, and it only gets worse over time. So, if you want to prevent noise-induced hearing damage, you need to take measures to protect your ears.
But how exactly can you know that noise is too loud for your ears? Well, let us explain.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Generally, we would consider the noise level to be too high or too loud if you have to raise your voice more than its normal volume to talk to someone who's standing just a few feet away like you have to do at a concert.
Or, when you can’t comprehend what the person is saying even when they are less than 2 feet away from you. Another sign of noise being too loud is experiencing ringing in the ears or slight deafness after a few hours of exposure.
If these conditions sound like your workplace? You are working in an incredibly harmful environment. And if you are in a managerial position, you are responsible for your subordinates as well.
According to the rules of OHSA Australia, employers must offer hearing protection to their employees when sound levels of the workplace are on average more than 85 decibels in an 8-hour job, and they have to make sure that the workers are using the protection when the noise levels reach 90 decibels in a day.
Now, traffic, old-school washing machines, lawnmower, and shop tools all make a similar level of noise. But you don't get exposed to them for around 8 hours a day every day. Therefore, when you are at work, it is important to make sure that your hearing is protected.
Noise Levels in Your Workplace
So, how do you know if your workplace environment is past the regular threshold of noise levels? Let us paint a picture for you.
- Air compressors 3 feet away register for 92 decibels, which is fairly past the healthy level of sound. It would cause just 2 hours to permanently cause hearing loss.
- If your workplace has power drills, they register at 98 decibels, which can potentially cause damage to your hearing in less than 30 minutes. Imagine being exposed to it every day.
- Typical factories are registered at 100 decibels. That’s 15 minutes before your hearing goes numb.
- Power saws from 3 feet can reach around 110 decibels, risking permanent hearing damage in 2 minutes if your ears are unprotected.
If you or your workers are exposed to these noise levels without hearing protection, it is most likely a plan for permanent hearing loss. And if you don’t exactly know what kind of noise levels you are working in, you can monitor that using specialised equipment.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to check the noise levels in your workplace if there is no indication that the noises are way too loud. So, some indications that the noise levels may be too high are:
- Your employees or colleagues complain often about the noise being loud.
- Signs that suggest employees are losing their hearing.
- It is difficult to have a normal conversation with someone without raising your voice.
- You can’t attend a phone call in your workplace because the noise in the background is too loud.
- Employees or colleagues are often rubbing their ears.
Keep in mind that it is not necessary that the noise levels are the same across the entire workplace, but the conditions can be limited to any specific site, room, department, or machinery.
In any case, what can we do to protect the hearing of yourself, your employees, and your colleagues?
Ways to Protect Hearing in the Workplace
There are several ways to protect hearing in an unusually loud workplace.
- Eliminate the Hazard:The first way recommended by professionals is eliminating the hazard from its roots, which means eliminating the need of using tools or machines that are damaging to the ears, or engineeringly altering them to make less noise. Realistically, these methods are not always possible and you just have to work with what you have got.
- Reduce Noise Levels:The second method is reducing the noise levels. Many machines and tools are designed to operate on lower decibels. Newer models of tools are way less noisy. Therefore, innovation can be adapted to reduce the risk of hearing loss. If the noise levels are reduced even just 5 decibels, it is rather a big achievement. However, that’s not always possible either.
- Placing Limitations:Another option we have is to place limitations and administrative controls, such as limiting the number of hours an employee can work in a high-noise environment or with high-decibel tools. Changing shifts will reduce the exposure employees are going through. However, due to staffing issues, this method is also not the most viable one.
- Earplugs – the Best Solution:Earplugs are so far the best solution to prevent noise-induced hearing damage at work. There are earplugs that are specifically designed for workplaces. They adjust right into your ear canals tightly, and you can move and work all you want without getting your hearing damaged. Ear muffs can also reduce the decibels, but can be uncomfortable.
Earplugs can reduce noise exposures by 20 to 30 decibels. You can even order custom-fit industrial earplugs for your employees and colleagues.
Book a meeting with a reliable supplier and explain your requirements, after which they will get your workplace and workers on the right path. Keep in mind not to waste your money on cheap and disposable earplugs because high-quality industrial earplugs come with a 4-year guarantee.