It often happens so gradually that you may not realize it. Excessive noise damages tiny sensory cells deep inside the ear. At first, you can’t clearly hear conversations in noisy workplaces, restaurants or sporting events, where there is background noise.
Noise can also cause your ears to ring. Or you may notice sounds seem muffled at the end of a day’s work.
Over time, you lose your ability to hear high-pitched sounds, like birds chirping, an alarm clock beeping or a warning signal at work. Eventually, you become isolated from the people and environments around you.
Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, but it’s also preventable.
In 2016, it was a $15.4 million problem in New Brunswick. Since 2007, WorkSafeNB has provided hearing aids and related services to more than 8,000 injured workers. That number is expected to grow even faster as New Brunswick’s population grows older.
Don’t be among those who end up with hearing loss. Don’t become isolated in a world of silence. Protect your ears at work and home.
► Who is at risk?
Studies have shown that daily exposure to noise levels in excess of 85 dBA over eight hours can cause damage to the ear. The higher the noise level, the shorter the exposure time required before damage to the ear can occur. For example, working only five minutes with a chain saw without hearing protection can damage your hearing.
► What can I do to reduce my noise exposure?
Exposure to noise adds up. You need to consider all the noise you are exposed to on a given day. For example, if you spent 10 minutes at work using a table saw at 100 dBA without hearing protection and then listened to your personal stereo system for one hour that night at 93 dBA, your total exposure crosses into the unsafe level.
A number of everyday activities can cause exposure to sound levels above 85 dBA. Here are a few examples:
- Listening to music through headphones or earbuds (60 to 120 dBA)
- Attending a rock music concert (125 dBA)
- Mowing the lawn (95 dBA)
- Roar of a crowd at a sporting event (95-100 dBA average)
- Driving a motorcycle (80-115 dBA)
- Using a food blender (88 dBA)
- Using a vacuum cleaner (88 dBA)
► How can I tell if my workplace is too loud?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, your workplace may have a noise problem.
- Do you have to raise your voice to be heard at work?
- Do you have ringing in their ears at the end of a shift?
- Do you have to turn down the volume of your car radio on the drive to work in the morning? Do you turn it up on the drive home?
- Do you turn the TV volume up so high it disturbs family members?
- Do you have problems understanding conversations at parties, or restaurants, or in crowds where there are many voices and competing noises?
► What can I do to reduce noise exposure in my workplace?
- Notify your employer or supervisor when you encounter hazardous noise and when equipment or tools need maintenance.
- Shut off machinery when it’s not in use.
- Use hearing protection properly; even for short duration tasks. Not using or removing a hearing protector even for just three seconds out of a five-minute task can reduce the amount you are protected by 33%.
- Look out for your co-workers. Remind them to use hearing protection.
- Participate in the employer’s hearing conservation program, including periodic hearing tests and training programs on noise hazards.
- Participate in developing and implementing noise control strategies at your workplace.
► What can employers do to reduce noise exposure in the workplace?
- Make hearing conservation a component of their health and safety program.
- Plan on how to control noise on site before a project starts.
- Train workers on the health hazards of noise and how to use controls.
- Purchase or rent quiet equipment and tools, and use noise mufflers.
- Implement a “buy quiet” purchasing policy to replace equipment and tools over the long term.
- Inspect and maintain tools and equipment.
- Prevent surfaces from vibrating excessively.
- Enclose noisy equipment to prevent the noise from reaching workers.
- Isolate employees in sound reduction booths when noise sources cannot be controlled.
- Post signs around noisy areas.
- Schedule noisy activities for when the fewest number of workers are on site.
- Provide various types of hearing protection. It’s more likely that workers will wear hearing protection if it fits comfortably.
- Enforce the use of hearing protection, especially for short-duration/high noise level tasks.
- Provide hearing tests at least every two years (more frequently if required) for workers exposed to noise levels greater than 85 dB(A).
- Comply with Sections 29-33 and 48 of the Regulation 91-191 of New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act which sets out the minimum requirements for protecting workers against noise. These sections set the limits for noise exposure and the elements of a noise control and hearing conservation program that must be provided to all workers whose noise exposure exceeds those limits.
- If there is a noise problem in a workplace, then a noise assessment or survey using CSA Z107.56 - Procedures for the Measurement of Occupational Noise Exposure should be undertaken to determine the sources of noise, the amount of noise, who is exposed and for how long.
If you are having a hearing problem, and suspect it could be due to noise exposure at work, consider making an appointment with one of our approved hearing services providers and completing a Form 67 – Report of accident or occupational disease. Submitting the Form 67 to WorkSafeNB will start the claims process.
More resources for noise induced hearing loss: