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Posted by on in Noise Measurement

Did you know 22 million workers in America are exposed to potentially harmful level of noise every year at their workplace? It is also estimated that 1 in 4 adults aged 20-69 have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Most people think of workplace safety as fall prevention or other such hazards that can cause immediate and severe injury, but one of the most common safety concerns in the workplace is the risk of hearing loss. May is designated as Better Hearing Month to raise awareness and help you take steps to protect your workers’ ears!

When looking at noise and hearing loss prevention, there are two main types of noise that cause hazards to your hearing – impulse sound and continuous exposure.

  • Impulse sound – sudden, loud noise that is typically brief in nature. In the work environment, this is usually a machine that activates quickly making a loud noise.
  • Continuous Exposure – this is much more common in the workplace. It may not be extremely loud, but it’s constant, and people tend to get used to it, but it is causing ongoing damage.

One of the best ways to help prevent hearing loss is to make sure you are providing proper personal protection equipment (PPE) for noise reduction. Here are the most common options:

  • Ear Plugs – effective and inexpensive way to block out the majority of the damaging noise
  • Traditional Ear Muffs – for louder locations, ear protection that goes over the ears is most beneficial
  • Electronic Ear Muffs – these can drown out all the background noise, but capture the voices and conversations and play them back into your ear

Giving your employees options that they are comfortable with means they will most likely use them on a regular basis. Cultivating a safe workplace is an employer’s responsibility, and a sound investment (see what we did there?) is to implement hearing programs and protections. At Workplace Safety, we can help you establish a hearing conservation program or conduct noise surveys to see where in the organization hearing protection is a must. Give us a call at 317-253-9737 and check out our noise measurement section of our website. 

The workplace is one of the most common places people will be exposed to harmful levels of noise, putting them at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is permanent and often progressive. If your company performs manufacturing, construction or mining activities, noise is going to be an issue that needs to be addressed.

According to OSHA’s standards, employers must implement a hearing conservation program “when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).” These programs “strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves.”

A hearing conservation program should include employers developing and carrying out plans that reduce noise in the work environment and providing equipment and materials that help workers protect themselves. Some things to keep in mind while developing a hearing conservation program include:
• Measurement of sound levels in the workplace
• Reducing noise through both engineering controls (making changes to equipment or the surrounding area) and administrative controls (making adjustments to the work schedule or workplace)
• Yearly training programs about hearing protection, as well as informing new employees of noise-induced hearing loss and other risks that occur due to noise exposure
• Within six months of employment, employees who are exposed to loud noises should be given a free baseline audiogram – and then a yearly free audiogram to compare any hearing issues
• Provide a variety of hearing protection options to those employees exposed to hearing hazards, including lower-noise power tools and ear protection, such as earplugs and earmuffs
• Records kept of employees’ varying noise exposure levels

The cost impact of a hearing conservation program can be minimized with an accurate noise survey. At Workplace Safety & Health Inc, we use top quality sound level meters and noise dosimeters to help you identify only those employees that need to be included in the program and determine if the initial cost of engineering controls is a sound investment over the on-going costs of a hearing conservation program management. We have the expertise to help you make sound decisions for noise measurement and control – 317-253-9737.

Occupational hearing loss (OHL) is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States with about 22 million workers exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, 10 million exposed to solvents, and an unknown number exposed to other ototoxicants that can lead to OHL. According to the National Institute for Occupational and Safety Health (NIOSH), noise is considered loud (hazardous) when it reaches 85 decibels or higher or if someone has to raise his/her voice to speak with someone 3 feet away (arm’s length). Ototoxic chemical exposure includes such chemicals as organic solvents (styrene, trichloroethylene and such mixtures), heavy metals (mercury, lead, trimethyltin), asphyxiants (carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide), and pesticides.

NIOSH has always considered hearing loss prevention as one of its top priorities as OHL is permanent, but also nearly always preventable. The best solution to dangerous noise levels in the workplace is to reduce the source of the noise, if feasible. One NIOSH initiative is to encourage companies to “Buy Quiet,” meaning to develop a plan to take noise levels into consideration when making purchasing decisions.

If this is not technically feasible, workers must use hearing protection devices (HPDs), which when properly selected and correctly worn, these devices will minimize the chance of developing a hearing loss. When considering hearing loss due to ototoxicants, it has been shown that some of these chemicals can cause hearing loss in conjunction with noise levels, but some can cause hearing loss without simultaneous excessive noise exposure.

Virtually all companies that perform manufacturing, construction, or mining activities create noise, so the first step to protecting your employees’ hearing is to establish a hearing conservation program. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can help your business establish such a program, which would include provisions for noise measurement, engineering and/or administrative control of noise, audiometric (individual employee hearing) testing and provision of hearing protectors.

Noise exposure crosses all industries and affects many workers, and many workers are unaware that their hearing loss may be an OHL, and in most cases, happens gradually. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. is ready to help you protect your employees’ hearing. Contact us at 317-253-9737.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are more common among workers exposed to loud noise at work, according to a NIOSH study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Researchers found that a quarter of U.S. workers reported a history of noise exposure at work.

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey to estimate the prevalence of occupational noise exposure, hearing difficulty, and heart conditions within U.S. industries and occupations. The researchers also examined the association between workplace noise exposure and heart disease.

Read entire article - https://ohsonline.com/articles/2018/03/23/cdc-study-shows-association-between-noise-exposure-and-heart-disease-risk-factors.aspx

 

Millions of workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day and when uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss. Research demonstrates exposure to certain chemicals, called ototoxicants, may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib030818.html

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