Work-related hearing loss is an irreversible condition usually caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. A report by Safe Work Australia explains that 28–32% of the Australian workforce is regularly exposed to loud noise at work, meaning that they are at risk for hearing loss. As you would expect, hearing loss is most common in the manufacturing and construction industries but is also relevant to other workers, such as those who work in music venues. The fact that this type of hearing loss is generally irreversible means that industrial hearing tests are absolutely vital for workers in those industries, as they allow for the hearing loss to be discovered before it becomes too severe. This short guide to work-related hearing loss explains how the condition can be diagnosed, how it can be prevented in the workplace, and what can be done after a diagnosis.
Diagnosing Work-Related Hearing Loss
Employers should organise industrial hearing tests for all their employees, which should be carried out every one or two years. The test provider will not only test employees for hearing loss but will also explain to them how to protect their hearing in the future. Sometimes, workers realise that their hearing has declined and contact their GP, but as the loss is often gradual, this cannot be relied upon.
Preventing Work-Related Hearing Loss
There are several strategies that employers can take to ensure that their workers have a lower chance of developing hearing loss. The simplest is to purchase the quietest machinery possible and to modify the work itself to be as quiet as possible. For example, if the workers typically drop parts from a great height, suggest that they be lowered instead. It's also a good idea to rotate workers between tasks, so nobody has to spend a long time doing the loudest task. Make sure that there are quiet areas to take a break, and provide earplugs as necessary. The industrial hearing tests themselves are also useful in preventing severe hearing loss, as they can catch it early.
Treatment For Work-Related Hearing Loss
Although this type of hearing loss is irreversible, there are still things that doctors can do after a diagnosis. As well as giving advice on how to preserve their patient's remaining hearing, they may want to fit a hearing aid to make everyday life easier. As MedicineNet explains, there is some promising research in this area, with new treatments that may be available in the future.
While work-related hearing loss is serious and widespread, there is also a lot that can be done to prevent it. Ensure that employees have regular industrial hearing tests, as well as making sure that their exposure to noise is as low as possible, and you will experience the lowest possible rates of hearing loss.