The surest methods of preventing noise-induce hearing loss is to eliminate, or to reduce noise at the source. However, in certain situations, these measures are not possible. In such workplaces, workers may need to wear hearing protectors to reduce the amount of noise reaching the ears.
People should wear hearing protection if the noise or sound level at the workplace exceeds 85 decibels, reducing the noise exposure level and the risk of hearing loss.
If hearing protection is required, introduce noise control measures including a noise assessment, hearing protector selection, employee training and education, hearing test to assess a base line of workers. This then allows monitoring over the course of worker employment and further intervention early if required.
So who needs them and how do you know?
According to Worksafe guidelines and without getting too complicated about it, " The maximum level of noise to which a worker may be exposed, whether or not they are wearing an hearing protector, is specified in the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995, and is: A Noise Exposure Level, (LAeq,8h) (3) of 85dBA, or A Peak Level (Lpeak) (4) of 140 dB (Peak, unweighted) It is important to appreciate that the use of a personal hearing protector does not reduce the noise exposure; it simply gives the person protection from the noise exposure."
So to put that in perspective the chart below gives the length of time your hearing is safe from damage when not protected.
The effectiveness of hearing protection if worn is reduced greatly if the hearing protectors don't fit properly, if they are worn only occasionally, or if they are removed even for a short period of time once the level exceeds 85dB. Radio/music earphones or headsets are not substitutes for hearing protectors and should not be worn where hearing protectors are required to protect against exposure to noise.
How do I know what the level is in my workplace?
I have a App on my phone, called 'Sound Meter', that allows me to check sound levels where ever I'm working or accessing. There are some limitations, because it is just an App and isn't calibrated to be exact, but it gives me a pretty good idea and is easy to use. This is particularly helpful in dental clinics. If you were to check during the high noise procedures, say suction or high speed drill use and compare the exposure time with the chart above it would give you a realistic idea of how much protection is actually needed as apposed to marketing hype. I'm not saying you shouldn't use ear protection or reduction methods, just be realistic about the need.
There are other workplaces like our construction clients who work with high levels of noise exposure for extended periods during the day, maximum protection as well as monitoring hearing is a given. There are individual class levels for the different hearing protection devices on the market, the following table is a guide to choose which class of is most appropriate for your workplace noise level.
There are three types of hearing protection on the market; ear muffs, ear plugs and caps. Ear muffs and ear plugs provide about equal protection and come in various classes, so check before you buy. Ear plugs can also be custom fitted, reducing noise while still allowing you to hear speech, though always make sure the level of protection is appropriate for the workplace or task. #KarenTurangaRDH #hearing #noiseprotection #healthsafety #practicesafe