Continuous exposure to loud noises can always harm the ears, causing temporary and even permanent deafness or loss of hearing. Most of such cases in Australia were found to be avoidable if workers used protection devices such as earmuffs and earplugs. Noise problems caused by working conditions are also a growing concern across the country with 28-32% of the Australian workforce very likely to work in an area that is exposed to loud noises.
Such noise-related injuries are common in these workplaces, especially in construction or industrial manufacturing sites. Workers who operate heavy machinery have also reported issues with hearing after a period of working. Extended exposure, although completely avoidable or deductible, can damage the eardrums to the point where employees would have to rely on hearing aids for help.
Damage In The Ear Drums:
The tiny hair cells in the inner region of the ear get stimulated when the noise gets transmitted through the ear canal as vibrations. This is how the human body hears sounds. The hair cells, being very delicate, can get damaged with loud noise exposure. The damage is not curable and can get worse with prolonged exposure. Certain chemicals that are ototoxic can also cause hearing damage to workers.
Identifying And Protecting Workers From Such Hazards In The Workplace:
The best way to find out whether the area has high noise pollution is by the famous “one-meter rule” where two individuals stand exactly a meter apart. If one person has to tell or raise their voice for communication, then the place has high levels of noise coming in that could be harmful. Another way to find out is to generalize the source from where it is likely to produce. These could be machines, generators, or any large moving parts as they can produce a significant amount of noise. Consider these tips to understand how to reduce noise and protect the workers from hearing damage during working hours:
- Maintain machines and constantly lubricate moving parts to reduce loudness at the source. Noisy machines are often an indication that the machines are not in proper working conditions so addressing that first can be beneficial to the production capability.
- Creating an obstruction or a barrier between the source of noise and the workers is also a good idea in a workplace. Sound-absorbing screens can be added to the factory walls depending on the layout.
- Every factory or industry must provide adequate hearing protection to the workers who are constantly exposed to such loud sounds. Using earplugs can block the sound significantly and they do not come in the way of working equipment. Another way to reduce noise by teaching the workers is to build them a safety enclosure bit this can reduce the efficiency of the workers so it’s not always implemented in factories.
Using Ear Protection In Workplaces:
- The earplugs must tightly seal the ear canal and must fit perfectly without any movement. If there is a slight degree of movement, use headbands.
- The earmuffs should firmly fit over the entire ear area forming a tight seal. Both earplugs and earmuffs should be used in loud noise areas, especially when the noise is above 105 decibels.
Conducting regular testing of audiometric throughout the factory can help identify and rank the levels of noise coming from every source. Educating the employees on how to properly counter loud noises in workplaces and how to correctly use hearing protection equipment is also a good start. They should be made aware that any loud sound above 85 decibels is dangerous and the noise should be blocked or reduced immediately