How Workers Can Protect Their Hearing on Construction Sites
Noise-induced hearing loss is an increasing problem in Australia, especially for those working in loud environments.
Construction workers regularly experience noise levels up to six times the legal exposure limit, and up to 75 per cent are developing tinnitus or permanent hearing loss as a result of their job.
So, what are the ways construction workers can protect their hearing?
This article will discuss noise-induced hearing loss, the safe level of noise on construction sites, and the steps construction workers can take to protect their hearing.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Every day, we are exposed to sound, usually at safe levels. However, these sounds can be harmful when they are too loud and can damage sensitive structures in our easers and cause noise-induced hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss can be immediate or happen over time, and most of the time, it’s permanent.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be immediate, such as being too close to an explosion, or gradually happen over time, such as working on a loud construction site.
Many recreational activities can put you at risk of noise-induced hearing loss if the sound levels are too high, such as
- Target shooting and hunting
- Attending music concerts/festivals
- Woodworking tools
- Playing in a band
- Listening to music through earbuds or headphones
Listening to sounds at or above 85dB can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
Symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss
There are a few telltale signs of noise-induced hearing loss, such as
- The inability to hear high-pitched sounds
- Muffled or distorted speech
- Tinnitus (buzzing or ringing in the ears)
- The feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear
The symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss may last minutes, hours or days after loud noise exposure ends.
Most of the time, this type of hearing loss is permanent, but it is preventable.
Construction Site Noise Levels
Exposure to hazardous noise at work, especially on construction sites, is a significant cause of hearing loss for workers around Australia.
A study conducted by SafeWork found that between 2012-2015, 17% of the total workers’ compensation claims in the construction industry were for noise-induced hearing loss.
The WHS Regulation of 2017 states that “the acceptable level of noise that any worker can be exposed to in the workplace is 85 decibels averaged over an eight-hour period. All noise above this level is considered dangerous”.
Therefore, if you have to raise your voice to be heard, the noise level is likely higher than 85dB. Exposure to noise levels of this magnitude can cause temporary or permanent noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
So, what are some ways construction workers can protect their hearing on construction sites?
1. Wear earplugs/earmuffs
Earplugs and earmuffs are one sure way to protect construction workers’ hearing.
Both types of hearing protection block out noise, enabling workers to carry out their duties without the thought of damaging their hearing.
You can even get custom earplugs to ensure they fit properly in your ear and won’t fall out.
Although both earplugs and earmuffs are great sources of protection on their own, to really protect your ears, it’s recommended that construction workers wear them at the same time.
2. Invest in quieter machinery
One thing employers can do to protect their workers’ hearing is to invest in quieter machinery.
As technology advances, more and more machinery becomes available with quieter capabilities. This means that tradespeople can work in environments with a lower risk of damaging their hearing.
3. Take a break from the noise
It’s recommended that workers on construction sites take a break from the noise every 30 minutes.
Giving your ears a break allows them to adjust and not be overworked when constantly working in noisy environments.
4. Get regular hearing tests
Regular hearing tests are recommended for those working in loud environments, such as construction sites.
The earlier you get a hearing test, the better, as your audiologist will have results to compare to each time you go back.
If you have bi-annual hearing tests and notice that your hearing has deteriorated, you can treat it faster.
Taking action is essential because if hearing loss is left untreated, it can lead to strained relationships and depression, dementia, and heart disease.
Get Tested at Attune
If you take all of the preventative measures while on the construction site and are still worried about your hearing, book a hearing test at your nearest Attune Hearing clinic.
Our comprehensive hearing tests conducted by qualified audiologists will determine if you have a hearing loss, the severity of your hearing loss and what caused it.
After the test, your audiologist may recommend hearing aids to treat your hearing loss. You can book a hearing test online or call us on 1300 736 702.