Noise at work can cause hearing damage that is permanent and disabling. This could be hearing loss that is gradual because of exposure to noise over time, but also damage caused by sudden, extremely loud noises.
The damage is disabling as it can stop people being able to understand speech, keep up with conversations or use the telephone.
Hearing loss is not the only problem. People may develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition which can lead to disturbed sleep.
Noise at work can interfere with communication and make warnings harder to hear. It can also reduce people’s awareness of their surroundings. These issues can lead to safety risks – putting people at risk of injury or death.
Workers in a noisy workplace are particularly at risk of losing their hearing. Excessive noise levels and the length of time people are exposed daily or over a number of years, are key factors in hearing damage.
But excessive noise at work can be prevented to reduce the risk of hearing loss.
Employers and employees have responsibilities and can take practical action to protect workers from noise in the workplace.