Permanent hearing damage can be caused immediately through a sudden loud noise such as an explosion or gradually through prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels. In all cases it is incurable.
One of the main sources of prolonged noise levels is the workplace. This is an important occupational hygiene issue and employers are responsible for ensuring that standards are met. The relevant standard for Australian workplace is the National Standard for Occupational Noise.
Briefly, the national exposure standard for noise in the occupational environment is an average daily exposure level of 85 decibels. And, in terms of peak noise, the national standard is a peak sound pressure level of 140 decibels.
Is there a problem in your workplace? This question can be answered by asking employees a number of questions:
- After work, do you need to turn up the radio or TV?
- At work, do you need to talk loudly to communicate with someone just a metre away?
- Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do you ever have ringing in your ears after work?
- Do you have dull hearing after work?
- Do your friends and family say you don’t hear them well?
When workplace noise is identified the following should be considered:
- Replacement of the noise-producing equipment
- Ensuring that equipment is installed and operating correctly
- Installing sound absorbing materials on floors, walls and ceilings
- The use of sound barriers or enclosures, such as those available from Resilmount Australia
- The use of personal protective equipment, such as ear plugs or ear muffs
- Identification and repair of the vibration sources within the equipment
- The use of noise damping products
- Providing effective maintenance procedures to eliminate noise
- Utilise elements such as anti vibration mountings, mufflers and silencers