Exposure to loud noise, whether it’s prolonged or sudden or happens as a result of your job or leisure activities, can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss and as such should be taken seriously.

If you have concerns that the levels of noise you are regularly exposed to could be causing hearing loss, it’s important to take action as soon as possible in order to minimise the risk of damaging your hearing permanently.

At The Hearing Centre, we see many patients in Leicester and surrounding areas who need specialist ear protection or who are suffering from the consequences of not having it in place. Here, audiologist Claire Marshall takes a look at the different scenarios in which hearing protection may be required and how to make sure it’s used efficiently to stop any hearing problems in the future.

When is hearing protection needed at work?

When most people think of hearing protection in the workplace, the image that springs to mind is of a construction worker working on a noisy building site with ear defenders protecting the ears. However, there are many professions that require hearing protection and under the terms of the Noise Control at Work regulations, it’s the responsibility of every employer to provide the appropriate hearing protection for their staff.

Ways to tell that hearing protection may be required in the workplace include:

  • Do staff need to raise their voices to speak to each other when standing about 2 metres away from each other?
  • Are noisy tools or machinery in use for longer than 30 minutes per day?
  • Can the noise be described as intrusive (like the noise emitted from a vacuum cleaner) for most of the day?
  • Does the work involve impact-based noise such as hammering, drilling, drop forging or explosive noise like detonators, guns or cartridge-operated tools?

What can be done about workplace noise?

If you are working in what is generally accepted as a noisy industry such as construction, wood work, plastic processing, engineering, forging, textiles or road repair, it is very likely that your job involves noise protection. Professional musicians are also a group who often require noise protection. These days, thanks to the 2005 Noise Control at Work legislation, the overwhelming majority of businesses and organisations take their noise protection responsibilities seriously – after all, they are in breach of the law and liable to serious repercussions if they don’t. However if there is any room for doubt, it is necessary to arrange to have a professional noise level assessment carried out in order to establish whether the noise levels are at an ‘action’ level where the employer is legally obliged to take action by providing ear protection for employees.

Also, it’s very important to be aware of your responsibilities towards ear protection even if you are a self-employed person working in your own in a noisy environment.

Hearing protection and leisure activities

Hearing protection can be required for many leisure and every day activities including the following:

  • Attending noisy live or recorded music events
  • Shooting
  • Hunting
  • Hobbies that involve the sound of a noisy workshop such as wood work and metal work
  • DIY and gardening using machinery like power drills and lawn mowers
  • Riding a motorbike
  • Driving in heavy traffic with the window open
  • Attending motor-racing events
  • Swimming and mud runs

Of course common sense should be applied here. For example, if you mow a small patch of grass once a fortnight in the summer months this is not the same as regularly using a powerful ride-on mower to cover large distances. However, some activities such as clay pigeon shooting will always require hearing protection due to the explosive noise of the gunshot. Attending the occasional rock concert may not cause any hearing problems, however if you notice a ringing or buzzing in your ears after going to a live music event, it will be worth using hearing protection next time.

Swimming and mud runs in themselves will not cause hearing loss, but if you regularly take part in these kind of activities, it is worth investing in ear protection to protect you from the possibility of suffering from swimmer’s ear which can cause ear damage including hearing loss.

Listening to music through headphones

These days the fact that most of us have phones that double up as music players means that listening to music or podcasts on the go is increasingly common. However, it’s important to be aware that prolonged exposure to loud noise through earphones is a common cause of hearing loss. Although it can sometimes feel tempting to turn the volume up beyond the red warning level on our phones and other devices when we’re in an already-noisy environment, it’s really important to keep the volume below this danger level in order to protect our hearing in the long term.

Expert hearing protection advice in Leicester

If you suspect you are suffering from noise-related ear damage or would simply like to discuss the best noise protection options for you, please call us on 0116 254 3909 or email i[email protected].