Fighting to get employers to face up to their responsibilities of safeguarding their workforce, driving home legislation, winning compensation for noise induced hearing loss – this can all be undone if the employees themselves choose to ignore the warning signs and run the risk of hearing damage.
From ignoring the use of ear defenders or ear plugs because of concerns over ‘hearing the machinery malfunctioning’ to simple daily exposure to excessive noise levels, many workers over the years have been their own worst enemy!
There has even been a popular, but fatally erroneous idea that a person is able to “toughen up” their ears by frequent exposure to loud noise! In other words, bear with the loud noise and you’ll soon “get used to it”. The terrible truth has been that constant exposure to cumulative noise in the past has been a direct cause of industrial deafness and permanently damaged hearing to such a degree that a person is unable to hear the excessive noise level.
In any given situation, different people will likely have different noise sensitivity but as a general rule, the noise level will probably cause damage to the hearing if an individual has to significantly raise his voice –or shout even – over the background noise to make themselves heard.
If as a result, further signs of deafness causes ear pain, ringing in the ears or a temporary loss of hearing for several hours or more after exposure to the noise, then a problem should be recognised and a hearing examination carried out.
Sound decibels – or the measure of sound intensity – increases by units of 10. Therefore, a dB increase of a sound from 20 to 30 dB is an increase of 10 times, and a dB increase of a sound from 20 to 40 dB corresponds to increase of 100 times (10 times 10). Continual exposure to more than 85 decibels (dB) is dangerous to the ears.
To get an idea of the decibel scale and how easy it is to ignore dangerous levels of noise, a quiet whisper is approximately 30 dB, normal conversation is 60 dB, a lawnmower is 90 dB; and the sound from an iPod Shuffle has been measured as high as 115 dBs. Industrial/factory workplace noise levels can sometimes be constantly at around the daily peak of 87 dB or more.