Deaf Awareness Week 2022: How to prevent workplace hearing loss
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that over two million people in the UK are exposed to unacceptable levels of noise within the workplace every year. Because of this, between 2018/19 and 2020/21 there were 14,000 workers with work-related hearing problems – with 95 of those cases emerging in 2019 alone.
This problem doesn’t only damage the health of your workers and cause higher staff turnover – noise-induced hearing loss is the second-most common reason for employer’s liability insurance claims for occupational health.
But can you prevent workplace hearing loss?
In short, yes. The good news is hearing loss caused by work is preventable – but, once a person’s hearing has gone, it won’t come back. So, it’s vital to have the right processes and procedures in place – including regular
audiometry testing – to make sure you’re protecting your workers and meeting your legal obligations.
This Deaf Awareness Week, our occupational health experts explore everything you need to know to prevent hearing loss at work and introduce effective audiometry testing.
What causes hearing loss at work and how can it be prevented?
Exposure to high noise levels can cause permanent hearing damage, often without the sufferer being aware of it until it’s too late. The damage is disabling – it can stop people being able to understand speech, keep up with conversations, or even use the phone. And hearing loss isn’t the only health problem caused by noise at work. People may also develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), which can then lead to disturbed sleep.
Because of this, noise at work can interfere with communications and make warnings harder to hear. It can also reduce people’s awareness of their surroundings. These issues can lead to safety risks – putting people at risk of injury or death.
Your team are at risk of noise induced hearing loss if:
Noise is intrusive for most of the day
They need to raise their voice to have a normal conversation when about 2 metres apart for at least part of the day
They use noisy power tools or machinery for over half an hour a day
They work in a noisy industry, such as construction, manufacturing
Completing risk assessments, reducing noise where you can, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and carrying out audiometry testing on those who are exposed to high levels of noise can all help prevent workplace hearing loss.
What is audiometry and how does it work?
As an employer, you’re legally obliged to carry out audiometry tests on all staff who work in an environment where the noise is higher than 85db.
Here at ELAS OH, our technicians carry out
pure tone audiometry to check the hearing of your staff. In the assessment, your employee will wear earphones attached to an audiometer. They’ll be played “pure tones” into each ear, and asked to indicate when they can hear the sound. Our team will then note the lowest volume that each sound was audible at and graph the results.
These results will highlight your employee’s current level of hearing and will form the basis for any protective measures required. Through annual audiometry tests, you can monitor changes in the hearing of their staff. This enables you to take action to reduce the risk to staff showing signs of developing a hearing problem.
Is audiometry a legal requirement?
Under the Control of Noise Regulations 2005, you must eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work. As well as this, you must provide health surveillance for all your employees who are likely to be frequently exposed above the upper exposure action values, or are at risk for any reason – for example, they already suffer from hearing loss or are particularly sensitive to damage.
Health surveillance usually means regular hearing checks, conducted annually for the first two years of being exposed and then at three-yearly intervals (although this may need to be more frequent if a problem with hearing is detected or where the risk of hearing damage is high).
The hearing checks need to be carried out by someone who has the appropriate training. A suitable occupational health doctor or nurse needs to review the results, and then support you with putting any necessary control measures in place if issues are identified.
How we can help
At ELAS Occupational Health, we’re nationwide leaders of
onsite audiometry. With one of the largest fleets of mobile medical units in the UK, we can come to your site wherever you’re based to carry out audiometry testing. Each unit is custom-built and fitted with an audiometry booth, allowing us to complete audiometry tests with minimum disruption and maximum efficiency.
Led by our Chief Medical Officer, we’ve been helping businesses comply with their statutory health surveillance and protect the health of their employees for over 30 years.
For more information about our onsite audiometry services, or to find out more about our mobile medical units, simply fill out the form on this page!