Tradies urged to protect their hearing against risk of permanent hearing loss from industrial noise
18 October 2018
Tradies across the country are at risk of developing permanent hearing loss due to noise hazards on the job. Tradies are being urged to ‘listen’ to the latest guidelines on how to protect their hearing health. It’s as simple as wearing hearing protection devices – at work and during leisure time.
Hearing loss due to excessive noise from machinery and power tools is one of the most widespread, yet preventable, workplace injuries¹. But there is good news, with recent findings showing that tradies who use hearing protection devices at work are also more likely to use them during noisy leisure pursuits.
A national survey of more than 8,000 Australian adults¹ conducted by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research division of Hearing Australia, reveals that workplace users of hearing protection devices are five times more likely to use them at leisure. Men were significantly more likely than women to use hearing protection in 10 out of 20 leisure activities, and those with tinnitus were also more likely to don the earmuffs!¹
“It’s heartening to see that use at work predicts use ‘at play’,” says Dr Elizabeth Beach, Senior Research Psychologist at NAL. Dr Beach, who co-authored the report on hearing devices1, says there are several signs you might have a hearing problem.
“If you’ve worked with noisy machinery or tools and have noticed that you can’t hear the television or phone as well as you used to, or if you’re noticing you need to ask people to repeat themselves, you might have sustained some noise-induced hearing damage,” she says. “It’s important to seek help to determine the extent of the damage and consider solutions.”
Buy quiet to save your hearing: One of the most effective ways of reducing noise is to 'buy quiet'. Next time you need to purchase a new saw or drill, check the manufacturer specifications and choose a model with a lower noise rating.
Choose well-fitted hearing protection to keep industrial noise below harmful levels.
Choose hearing protection that’s comfortable to wear for long periods – whether earmuffs or ear plugs, disposable or reusable – it’s critical to find a style that works for you.
Remember: 85 decibels is considered the Safe Noise Threshold2 - if the sound of your tools is loud enough that you need to raise your voice to be heard, appropriate hearing protection should be worn.
Mr Kim Terrell, Managing Director, Hearing Australia adds, “Research suggests that use of hearing protection devices does reduce the risk of hearing loss, and there has been many advancements to improve useability in the workplace. Hearing Australia will continue to look at ways to reduce the incidence of preventable hearing loss as part of its commitment to provide world leading research and hearing services for the wellbeing of all Australians. We encourage tradespeople to incorporate healthy hearing into their lifestyle.”
Fast facts for risk-averse tradies3:
Cumulative damage: lasting damage can result from a one-off exposure to excessively loud noise or from repeated exposures to moderately loud sound over an extended period of time.
Power tools and permanent damage: Power tools often exceed 100 decibels so even if they’re only used for a short time, the damage to hearing can be permanent. Common culprits are pneumatic hammers, drills and saws.
If people have concerns about their hearing or a loved one's hearing, they can visit one of over 600 Hearing Australia locations around the country for a free* hearing check that only takes a few minutes. Or they can get in touch with Hearing Australia on 1800 740 301 or visit www.hearing.com.au
¹ Elizabeth Francis Beach, Megan Gilliver & Warwick Williams (2016) Hearing protection devices: Use at work predicts use at play, Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, 71:5, 281-288, DOI: 10.1080/19338244.2015.1089828. 2016
2 Safe Work Australia – Work Health and Safety Regulations – September 2015
3 Pro Choice Educational Hearing Guide: http://www.prochoice.com.au/Libraries/Educational_eBrochures/Workplace_Hearing_Protection_Guide.sflb.ashx
* Only 15 minute hearing checks are free. Other services may attract charges/fees or may be subsidised for those eligible under the Australian Government Hearing Services Program, to which conditions apply. A hearing check is a screening that helps identify people that may have hearing loss.