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What is a noisy workplace?

Hearing loss is much more serious than many people realise. It’s often dismissed as an issue for older people, or people who work in traditionally “noisy” workplaces, but it affects 1 in 6 people of working age and that number is set to increase.

We need to challenge the idea that it’s only industries like construction and engineering that can be noisy. The rise in headphone usage means that many traditionally “quiet” workplaces are now potentially putting the hearing of their people at risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on how we work. The introduction of remote working was one of them. With online meetings (through Zoom, Google Meet, etc.), workers are spending a vast amount of time wearing headphones, increasing their chances of hearing damage. It has almost reached the point that you need to use headphones to deliver your work, be that to drown out the sounds at home or that of an open plan office when you want to focus. So there is a duty of care that employers need to meet to provide hearing health for their employees.

Why is it not on our agenda already?

The World Health Organisation is already campaigning for good hearing health, so soon we will see a lot of changes but isn’t it odd that businesses typically provide dental and eye care but nothing for hearing? According to this survey, 79% of people in the UK have never had a hearing test, and with remote working we believe it is time to change that.

Maximum volume on headphones varies but is thought to be around 100dB. We recommend listening through headphones at around 50% to avoid any major damage. 85dB is the safe listening limit for up to 8 hours a day; sounds above this level can cause serious damage.

Taking into consideration the amount of hours that an individual office worker spends at their desk, as well as the many hours in which an individual may be using headphones for leisure, we can argue that the average person already spends about 7 hours a day with headphones.

What can you do?

  • Protect your hearing

    • Make safe listening a habit - If you are constantly using headphones for either pleasure or work, make sure you maintain your volume at 50%. If you wear headphones for long periods in your working day, give your ears a 5 minute break every 60 minutes.

    • Use protection when regularly exposed to loud sounds.

  • Let others know - even employers

    • If you feel like there are exposures to dangerous levels of sound in the office, let your employers know - they are legally bound to take action.

  • Monitor and if necessary speak to professionals

  • Start training

    • If you would like to take proactive measures towards improving your listening skills, download eargym’s hearing training platform and begin your journey to better hearing.

The Health and Safety Executive has explained the levels of sound that companies are legally required to abide by in order to protect their employees from noisy workplaces- check it out here.


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