The susceptibility to, and extent of hearing damage caused, by a one-time exposure to loud sound, as well as by repeated exposure to sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time, is not always properly appreciated.
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Exposure to hazardous, excessive levels of noise at work has increased substantially over the past 50 years and it is thought that 1.3 million workers in the UK are exposed to noise levels over 90 dB which lead to industrial deafness, as a direct consequence. Concerned organisations like The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have suggested that there are new work environment and occupational categories to seriously consider, which may create further risks to hearing, such as call centres and motorcycle couriers.
Estimates for the number of people in the UK suffering from work-related noise-induced hearing loss can vary from around 75,000 to over 500,000. As a result of health & safety compliance legislation, awareness education, and injury compensation claims, improvements have been slowly made over the years, although widespread workplace noise levels still exist.
Excessive levels of noise in the workplace which result in industrial deafness are the basis of most compensation claims. Attributing a specific cause to tinnitus- a constant internal ringing or humming sound – can be notoriously difficult or impossible, especially if there was a known or suspected noise source, but which has since ceased.
Research conducted in recent years into industrial deafness have found some intriguing differences between male and female workers according to occupation.