Noise is one of the greatest but least understood risks at work. Manufacturing, construction and call centre workers are particularly at risk from noise related problems like deafness and tinnitus. But almost all workplace environments can pose a health threat.
If you think work is to blame for your hearing problems, you should seek legal advice. You may be able to claim the costs of a hearing aid from a former employer, for example, and you may be entitled to compensation for your deafness. Call our specialist solicitors on: 0844 488 9090 or complete our online personal injury claim form.
According to the HSE, around 170,000 people suffer from deafness, tinnitus or other ear problems as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work. In addition, it’s estimated that more than a million employees in the UK are regularly exposed to potentially damaging noise levels in the workplace.
Your employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment. However, until recently, many employers have failed to fully appreciate the medical problems associated with noise. Nor have they taken sufficient steps to prevent workers from being exposed to it.
As a result, many employees have suffered problems of deafness and tinnitus.
Deafness and tinnitus
The medical problems caused by noise accumulate over time and are not always immediately obvious. It is not just the level of noise you are exposed to at work that puts your hearing at risk but also how long you are exposed to that noise on a daily basis and over how many years.
The loss of hearing that results from workplace noise can have a profound effect on the quality of your work, social and family life. Not being able to hear someone properly when there is background noise or even being able to hear the television. Not being able to enjoy conversations for fear of having to ask people to repeat themselves again and again. Some sufferers even find themselves avoiding social events for the same reasons.
Deafness is made even worse for some people by tinnitus. The continuous ringing and buzzing they hear in the ears or at odd times, can be very disturbing especially if it affects their sleep. In summary, deafness deprives many sufferers from enjoying a normal and healthy life.
Are you at risk from noise?
Your risk of hearing loss will depend on how loud the noise is and how long you are exposed to it. If you answer ‘yes’ to some or all of the following, workplace noise could be affecting your health:
- Are you conscious of the noise in your workplace?
- Do you have to raise your voice to be heard by colleagues?
- Are heavy machines used in your workplace?
- Is sudden, but loud, noise a feature of your work – such as hammering or explosions?
Prevention is better than cure
Once it has occurred, hearing loss is unfortunately permanent. If anything, it is likely to deteriorate further over time. However, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself from noise in the workplace. These include wearing ear protection, asking your employer to move you away from noisy machinery or at least give you breaks from it, and ensuring you undertake regular hearing tests.