How Employees Can Protect Their Hearing at Work

man in his garage cutting wood while wearing yellow over the ears protectors

One of the biggest causes of premature hearing loss is loud noise exposure. If you are constantly exposed to loud noises, the hair cells in your ear that pick-up sound become overworked and will die. 

Many workplaces are very loud – being in these environments for long periods may increase the risk of hearing loss. Fortunately, there are ways in which employees can protect themselves from these loud noises. This post delves into further detail about what employees can do to protect their hearing. 

Which work environments pose the most risk of hearing loss?

Workplaces in which employees are regularly exposed to sounds above 85 decibels can pose the biggest danger. A few work environments that exceed this level include:

  • Farms (when handling machinery)
  • Factories
  • Nightclubs
  • Music venues
  • Construction sites
  • Motorsports venues
  • Shooting ranges
  • Airport grounds

If you work in any of these environments, it could be worth considering forms of hearing protection.

What can employers do to protect employees’ hearing?

It is the responsibility of the employer to put in place health and safety measures to protect employees. There are a few different measures that employers can take to protect employees from hearing loss:

  • Opt for quieter machinery:  A lot of modern commercial machinery is designed to be much quieter. When acquiring new machinery, try researching how loud it is.
  • Use soundproofing where appropriate: In noisy work environments, it’s worth having soundproofed areas where employees can rest their ears. Soundproofed break rooms in motorsports venues, factories and nightclubs are quite common. 
  • Enforce use of ear protection: This is one of the most effective measures for protecting your employees’ hearing. Ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs can help to reduce the amount of decibels that the ears are exposed to. By making it company policy to wear ear protection in certain areas or while doing certain tasks, you can make sure that employees’ hearing is protected. 

Choosing the best form of ear protection

There are two main forms of ear protection that employees can use – earplugs and earmuffs. Earplugs sit inside the ear canal, while muffs shield the outside of the ears. Both have their own pros and cons.

Earplugs

Earplugs tend to offer a better level of ear protection than earmuffs. This is because they sit directly inside the ear. They can also be easily and more discreetly worn with other headwear such as a helmet or a hat.

Nowadays, you can buy earplugs specially designed for certain environments. For example, there are earplugs that reduce sound without reducing clarity that are great for musicians or nightclub staff. There are also earplugs that can mute sudden close sounds, which are suitable for shooting and hunting, and earplugs that can reduce wind buffering, which are suitable for motorsports drivers. An audiologist will be able to help you select the right earplugs for your needs. 

Just make sure that earplugs are being worn properly, otherwise they won’t offer adequate protection. They may be inappropriate for employees that have an ear infection or ear injury.

Earmuffs

Earmuffs are easier to take on and off than earplugs. They are therefore perfect for intermittent use. Earmuffs can also be used by different employees while still providing the same fit. When choosing earmuffs, it’s important to choose commercially-designed ear defenders. Bear in mind that different earmuffs may provide different levels of sound protection. 

What happens if you experience hearing loss at work? 

If you’ve already started to experience hearing loss at work, you may want to consider looking into treatment options. Hearing aids are the simplest and most effective form of treatment – an audiologist will be able to help you select the right hearing aid for your needs.

It is important to continue protecting your hearing even when you have already started to experience hearing loss. If you do not protect your hearing, you could experience further hearing loss. If you are self-employed, it is fully up to you to protect your ears. If you work for an employer, it could be worth talking to them about ear protection if they don’t already have measures in place to protect employees’ hearing. 

To find out more about hearing loss, it is worth talking to an audiologist. At Valley Hearing Center, we can help you to find the right hearing aid, as well as guiding you through forms of ear protection. Call 831-240-4162 to book an appointment today.