Which Jobs Are At Risk Of Causing Hearing Issues In Employees?

March 7, 2014 2:54 pm

During the last three years there has been a significant rise in the quantity of people seeking compensation for hearing problems arising from noisy workplaces. According to one of Europe’s largest insurance companies, Zurich, UK claimants for deafness and hearing problems jumped by almost 25% in 2011. In 2012 estimates put the number of UK claims at 35,000. So far, the largest compensation settlement for hearing loss is £165,000 and involved a case of extreme tinnitus that led to psychiatric problems.

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Extreme cases like this are rare, but more than one million employees in Britain are exposed to noise levels that risk their hearing according to the Health and Safety Executive. Around 17,000 of us are already suffering deafness or other hearing conditions caused by excessive noise at work. Once diagnosed with a problem, the key is to manage it effectively. With more than 1,000 different types of digital hearing aids available, that can be a daunting prospect, many sufferers are turning to companies like Hidden Hearing to decide which kind of hearing aid would be best for them.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force in England and Wales in April 2006. Updating the 1989 Noise at Work Regulations, this law applies to all industry sectors and pushes employers to control workplace noise. Employees must be provided with suitable hearing protection for noise of 85 decibels (dB) or more, roughly the equivalent of the noise of city traffic as heard from inside a car. A risk assessment must be carried out if noise levels reach 80 dB and there is an upper legal limit of 87 dB.

So which are the riskiest professions when it comes to hearing?

Fire-fighters are exposed to high levels of noise during training and in the line of duty ranging from the noise of close proximity heavy machinery, radios, and the fire-engine horn. Likewise TV and radio presenters often complain of hearing issues caused by wearing earpieces that allow their producers and colleagues to communicate with them.

However, a recent survey identified airport ground staff, who help planes take-off and land, as most at risk from loud noises at work. They are provided with safety ear shields to protect them against sounds that can reach 140 dB. Another of the jobs most hazardous-to-hearing include those linked to Formula One cars, including the driver for whom cockpit noise reaches 135 dB. Number three in the survey of noisiest jobs is construction workers. The sound of a hammer drill can reach 120 dB, but construction workers are also surrounded by a range of different building site noises day-in day-out.

Bar staff that work late shifts in clubs are also at risk because the noise of music and jubilant revellers combined can reach 115 dB. Musicians are another group that need to take care whether they work in classical, pop, or rock. Coldplay front-man Chris Martin and Black Eyed Peas’ mastermind Will.I.Am both put up with hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of their profession.

Unsurprisingly, working in a factory environment can be extremely noisy. Perhaps more unexpected is that farming can also do serious damage to hearing with activities like pig feeding exposing staff to squealing noises reaching around 105 dB. Nursery school workers can work in loud conditions with their young charges creating noise of up to 85 dB.

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