Should I be wearing ear protection?
The manual labour industries, such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing, are known to include substantial work-related health risks.
Unfortunately, a lack of awareness of certain risks, such as exposure to excessive noise, can cause severe and even long-lasting damage such as tinnitus and hearing loss.
Regular exposure to loud noise is a common risk within the labour industries and adequate protection is considered just as essential as other forms of protective equipment.
When should ear protection be worn?
It is essential for all workplaces to undergo regular risk assessments to identify any present and potential health hazards as well as to determine any requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE). It is important to know that PPE should only be used as a last resort to avoid creating any further risks. The usage of certain protective equipment can limit a worker’s movement and/or senses, thus increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Therefore, it is fundamental that the situation is assessed to determine whether the risk can be replaced, mitigated or removed altogether. If such risks are out of a person’s control, then a worker is required to use PPE.
Adequate hearing protection in the form of ear plugs should be issued to workers where prolonged exposure to noise levels above 70dB cannot be avoided after performing a risk assessment. This can include working environments that involve loud machinery, power tools and large vehicles such as trucks and lorries.
How does ear protection work?
Ear plugs are considered the most effective form of auditory protection as they fit into the ear canal, restricting the amount of dB travelling directly to the cochlea in the inner ear. They are proven to be more effective than ear muffs which simply cover the outer ear and are ideal for environments with exceedingly high noise levels such as airports, factories and even music venues.
How to find the right quality
It is essential that any PPE used is of the highest standard to provide adequate protection against any presented risks. Good quality ear protection should be CE certified which can be found via checking the equipment’s safety standard specification. This means that the product has been tested and approved by the European health, safety and environmental protection standards.
Your ear plugs should also display their attenuation ability by specifying a noise reduction rating (NRR), often in relation to low, medium and high noise levels – for example, if dB levels are considered to be high (above 70dB), good quality ear plugs should provide an NRR of around 32dB.
Auditory damage and how to manage it
Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause damage to your hearing, causing problems such as tinnitus and even hearing loss. Early signs of such problems include gradual hearing loss, a consistent buzzing or ringing in the ear, finding it difficult to hear or follow conversations, and a constant need to turn up the volume of devices such as the TV or radio.
Using ear protection can help prevent the deterioration of any auditory problems whilst seeking help as soon as you become aware of any symptoms. It is important that you try as best as you can to limit your exposure to loud noise and seek professional help to manage your condition.