Three steps to combat industrial deafness

The constant sound of machinery, loud noises, bangs,
kerrangs and rending metal are the sound of industry in Australia

It is simply an accepted part of the sector – consistent,
high level noise.

However the repercussions it can have, if not effectively dealt
with, can last a life time – industrial deafness.

An estimated 275 million people across the globe can’t hear
clearly. These people suffer from hearing loss, the number one sensory
disability in the world.

Some people never had their hearing, as they were born deaf. However, the majority of people with hearing
loss had something happen along the way that took it from them. Infectious
diseases like meningitis, measles, mumps and chronic ear infections, as well as
head and ear injuries and aging all can contribute to hearing loss.

But perhaps the most common cause is excessive noise.
Whether it’s a one-time exposure to an intense, “impulse” sound, like gunfire,
or by repeated exposure to loud sounds over time, like machinery at work, noise
has the potential to rob people of their hearing.

The effects of hearing loss extend well beyond having to
talk louder It strains a person’s ability to understand conversations, which
can cause problems and misunderstandings at work and at home. Hearing loss also leads to isolation from
family, friends and the environment.

“The good news is noise-induced hearing loss is
preventable,” Terry Gorman, 3M’s Personal Safety Division’s senior occupational
hygienist said.

“So many people could be spared from it, if they just took a
few easy steps.”

Step 1: Wear hearing
protection

The most important, and simple, step to preventing hearing loss is to wear
hearing protection.

“There are many great hearing protection options, but
sometimes it’s a challenge to know which to choose and how and when to wear it
correctly,” Gorman said.

“Hearing protection is now available that is comfortable,
fits well, and includes options to enhance communication – like microphones and
two-way radio connections for people who need them.”

By wearing the right protection workers can avoid a lifetime
of repercussions.

Step 2: Be mindful
around the clock

Sounds louder than 85 decibels (dBA) are more common than people
might think.

Prolonged exposure to these high-level sounds can
permanently damage your hearing, and cause ringing in the ears, along with
other symptoms. Most people don’t carry decibel meters, so it’s good to know
where those sound levels can occur. Some examples include:

* Attending a football game (100 to 120 dBA)

* Using a leaf blower or chainsaw (95-120 dBA)

* Riding a motorcycle (80-110 dBA)

* Using a lawn mower (82-103 dBA)

* Attending a rock concert (90-120 dBA)

* Listening to an iPod (75-114 dBA)

* Operating a dozer (75-90 dBA)

Hearing these sounds occasionally, for a limited time, isn’t
a major threat to hearing.

But repeated exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing damage
over time.

Many people – like miners, work in noise that is 85 dBA or
higher every day. As a result, noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most
common occupational diseases and the second most self-reported occupational
illness.

Step 3: Reduce the
Volume or Increase Distance

Work-related noise might be unavoidable, but many times, you
can be in control of the noise around you. Whenever possible, select quieter chain
saws, power tools, etc.

If you aren’t able to turn down loud sounds you encounter,
take a few steps back from the source of the loud sound to lessen your exposure
to them. Even a few feet of distance between you and a loud sound can lower the
decibel levels that hit you.

By taking these three steps you can avoid some of the
potential danger of permanently damaging your hearing.

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