Frequently asked questions
- Hearing damage - this can be something that is caused over time or can be a sudden occurrence.
- Tinnitus - when you can hear a ringing, roaring or buzzing sound in one or both of your ears.
- Can interfere with communications between people
- Increase risk of accident due to masking sound of approaching danger
- Exposure to prolonged loud noise can also affect pregnant women and the unborn child.
- Increase stress - persistent or increased noise can provoke stress in people.
The first thing you should consider is if the noise can be eliminated altogether. You could:
- Try using quieter equipment or processes - consider noise levels when purchasing equipment, replace the noise
- Have controls: avoid metal on metal contact, add material to reduce vibration noise, try to isolate noise and fit silencers to air exhausts.
- Try to lessen the noise that the surrounding people encounter - set up enclosures around machines and block direct sound with barriers
- Create a workplace from the beginning to try and lessen noise - materials that absorb noise, design the workplace to keep machinery out of high people trafficked areas.
When hearing loss occurs, it is irreversible. High noise levels can cause hearing loss which cannot always be immediately noticeable. It may only be noticeable when it impacts day to day life.
Hearing loss can happen after a sudden loud explosive noise or it can occur after prolonged lower level noise after a long time. There is no specific time it takes to become deaf and there is no level of fitness or age to prevent it.
Employers have the responsibility to issue the correct hearing protection equipment to their employees. If employees are exposed to noise at 80 decibels or above this level then your employer must have personal hearing protectors. They should provide it where extra protection is needed even with noise control regulations are in place, but not as a replacement for noise control.
Employers have to:
- Provide ear protection if employees ask for it and if noise exposure is between the upper and lower levels
- Identify hearing protection zones - where protection is required
- Provide employees with training about how to use their hearing protectors
- Ensure that protection is used
The employer has a responsibility to provide noise protection. But the employee also has the right to ask for noise protection too.