Noise Induced Hearing Loss Toolbox Talk
In this toolbox talk, learn about noise exposure on jobsites and how overtime, loud noises can contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. Get methods to help with hearing conservation on construction sites, including noise safety best practices, PPE, and hearing protection.
Noise Exposure & Hearing Protection Safety Talk
You never know how valuable your hearing is until you don't have it anymore. There are many loud noises that occur on construction sites for various reasons. The CDC has records of over 26 million people who have experienced noise-induced hearing loss while working. Astonishingly, this is one of the biggest workplace injuries within the United States.
Once your hearing is damaged, there isn’t much that can be done to get it back. The damage that is done to the structures in the ears is a problem that you will always have. That is why it is so important that we learn about noise exposure and hearing conservation safety, and how to protect our hearing at all times.
How Noise Damages The Ear
The way that we hear is a very complex process that our brain processes. Sound waves and auditory nerves have to work together to make this all happen. It even goes all the way down to needing the hairs in your ears to make the channels open up.
All in all, it takes a whole process to make hearing possible. When you are subject to loud noises often and you do not protect your ears, the damage is going to be endured. More times than not, the part of the process that is damaged is the hair follicles in the ear. They never grow back once they completely die, which then hurts your ability to hear.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Signs and Symptoms
When you lose your hearing, in most cases it isn’t something that just abruptly stops. It is a process that gradually becomes worse and worse. That is why hearing protection and noise safety is so important, because your hearing isn’t something that you usually notice is being damaged until it is too late.
Sudden Hearing Loss
The type of hearing loss that is sudden, is caused by a single very loud explosion. There are many things that can happen to your ears when this occurs, tinnitus, rupture the eardrum, or damage the tiny bones in the middle ear. These things can result in temporary hearing loss or even permanent hearing loss.
Tinnitus is when you hear a constant ringing in one or both of your ears. In some cases this is a temporary problem that will subside over time, then there are times that it never goes away. Long term damage to the ears can be a problem that you face when you have sudden onset hearing loss or tinnitus like this.
How to Prevent Hearing Damage
There are many ways that you can protect your hearing when you work in an environment that has loud hazardous noises. These noise safety precautions should always be adhered to, to protect yourself and your ears. Here are some of the many things that you can implement for hearing conservation.
Engineering controls can be very beneficial to protect your ears from loud noises. This is going to help bring down the level of noise exposure and protect you and the other workers. Some examples of engineering controls are noise dampening systems, sound barriers, and enclosures.
If you cannot hear a loud noise or explosion, you are not subject to the damage that it can cause to your ears. Putting into play the option for removing yourself completely from the sound waves is the best way to not experience noise-induced hearing loss. There are many ways that you can help to protect yourself from loud noises, but the elimination of them is the number one way.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment, PPE, should never be your only resource for protection. PPE is the last resort, not your only line of defense. The decibels of noise that is being made should be monitored and measured to know when protective actions should be taken. Anything below 100 is okay with just earplugs. For the noise levels above that, more hearing protection actions need to be taken.
Prolonged exposure to loud noises puts you at higher risk for having hearing loss. By putting administrative controls into place, you can have employees rotate out. It should be a rule that all employees need a break from the noise after a certain amount of time. That way they are reducing their risks of being injured.
Hearing Protection PPE
When it comes to your ears and your hearing, there isn’t a long list of things that you can use to protect them. That is one reason it is so important to do what you can for noise safety at all times. When the decibels of noise that you are hearing is extremely high, doubling your protection is highly advised. The only real PPE that you can use is hearing protectors such as earplugs and earmuffs, which many times need to be worn together.
Examples Of Loud Noises
There are many loud noises that you can hear on a regular basis when working on a construction site. Many that require you to wear PPE to protect your ears and not cause hearing loss or ringing in the ears. Anything ranging in the 30-60 decibel range is pretty normal.
When sounds begin to get louder than that, damage can begin to be done. When noises are at 120 decibels, permanent sudden damage can be done. Noise travels, so depending on your distance from the noise, more than just the operator is at risk.
Some of the many things that can be loud enough to damage hearing are:
Annual Hearing Test
All places are different and operate on different regulations. OSHA does have some rules and protocols to adhere to for employees who are exposed to 85 decibels or above on a regular basis. Basic knowledge and education about the risks should be made present to the employees at all times.
Testing is to be provided by the employer to check on the hearing of the employees. This testing is called audiometric testing.
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