Hearing loss in the military
It's common to experience hearing loss after military service due to the high levels of noise exposure. In fact, noise-induced hearing problems (including tinnitus) are the second most common disability experienced by military personnel.
Despite often having maximum hearing protection, those serving in the armed forces are exposed to such loud noises that hearing loss can still occur. And it's often not possible for them to take appropriate breaks from these loud sounds when needed.
To avoid hearing loss after military service, hearing protection must be worn and regular hearing check-ups and tests are required.
Support is available to those experiencing hearing loss after military service.
Industrial hearing loss
Hearing loss is becoming more prominent in the wider population. This is down to a wide range of lifestyle factors including, increased life expectancy, a rise in headphone use, and longer periods of time spent listening to personal devices.
Did you know?
Globally, there are 1.5 billion people affected by hearing loss. On top of this, a further 1.1 billion young people are at risk of avoidable hearing loss.
Industrial hearing loss, or hearing loss in factory workers, is known as occupational deafness. The causes of occupational deafness are:
Working in noisy environments
Having prolonged exposure to loud noises (long shifts)
Inadequate hearing protection
Lack of information
Currently, it is estimated that 14,000 workers are living with work-related hearing problems in the UK. These could have been avoided if proper action was taken and information about hearing well-being was accessible to all workers.
There are two components to industrial hearing loss, these are:
Hearing loss after noise exposure. This is a one-time exposure to a severely loud and intense sound. For example, an explosion.
Hearing loss after repeated exposure to loud sounds, such as drills or machinery.
Exposure to any sounds above 85 decibels for more than eight hours is considered to be dangerous. This is reduced to just 15 minutes if the sounds are 100dB.
There is a misconception around where you’re most likely to experience hearing loss. Traditionally, the industries where you’re likely to come across loud noises are:
Entertainment and music
Aviation and aeronautics
If you experience hearing loss while working in these industries, it is likely due to consistent exposure to loud noises. For example, a siren in an ambulance or fire engine is around 110 decibels - this is 25 decibels above the level considered dangerous. However, increasingly open plan offices are becoming noisy environments where workers are subjected to frequent, and inconsistent levels of noise. This can then lead office workers to pop in their headphones, which can be equally as damaging as working in more industrial environments.
Hearing loss in factory workers
Occupational deafness is particularly high in factory workers, as the machinery often generates consistent loud noise. It is estimated that nearly half of all factory workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels.
How to reduce hearing loss in factory workers:
Start monitoring noise levels and noise exposure
Ensure regulations are understood by workers
Implement a hearing protection zone
Provide hearing protection devices and training on how to use the devices
Make sure hearing protection is worn
Instigate regular hearing tests and check-ups
These suggestions are not limited to factory workers. They should be implemented by all industries and in all work environments where there are high levels of noise.
What is a hearing protection zone?
A hearing protection zone is an area of the workplace where hearing protection must be worn. This zone should be made clear and marked with signs to inform and instruct workers. These zones are supervised to ensure hearing protection is being used correctly.
It is the employer’s duty to provide training and information on using hearing protection, as it is to ensure the protectors are maintained and in working order.
When is hearing protection required in the workplace?
In workplaces, wearing hearing protection is optional in environments where noise levels are between 75 and 84 decibels. Hearing protection is required and compulsory (by law) when sound levels reach 85 decibels. Hearing protection is mandatory in all hearing protection zones.
It is advised to wear hearing protection in environments where hearing becomes uncomfortable, which is usually around 75 decibels.
Where is hearing protection required for employees?
Workers are required to wear hearing protection in hearing protection zones, or any environments where sound levels are 85 decibels or above.
We have more in depth information about how to reduce noise hazards in the workplace or how to prevent hearing loss in the workplace on our help and advice page.