Posted on 06/03/2019

Tradies in noisy workplaces urged to protect their hearing

Tradies in noisy workplaces urged to protect their hearing

WITH noise-induced hearing loss being a preventable but irreversible condition, West Australian tradies are urged to wear hearing protection to limit their exposure to loud noise in the workplace.

The annual Hearing Awareness Week aims to raise community awareness of hearing impairment and this year's event from March 3-9 reminds “hearing is precious and fragile.”

Safe Work Australia statistics show 28 per cent to 32 per cent of Australian employees are likely to be exposed to loud noise at work.

In WA, legislation sets a workplace exposure standard of 85 dB(A) averaged over an eight hour period, or a peak noise level of 140 dB(C).

Noise-related injuries are most common in the manufacturing and construction industries, with tradies, technicians, machinery operators, drivers and labourers most exposed.

Specsavers professional services manager for audiology Kathryn Launchbury said the main message for tradies during the 2019 Hearing Awareness Week is to take care of their hearing by wearing earplugs or hearing protection when around loud noise such as from power tools, equipment and machinery.

“Hearing loss is not necessarily noticeable immediately but the effects of repeated noise exposure over time will have an impact on your hearing in the long run,” she said.

“Often people with noise-induced hearing loss find hearing conversation in noisy environments such as restaurants more challenging, often speech can sound muffled or distorted and they often need the television on a louder volume.

“Many people with noise-induced hearing loss often report experiencing tinnitus, which is ringing or buzzing in their ears.”

Mrs Launchbury said the most common treatment is a hearing aid if it is permanent and unrelated to other underlying medical conditions.

There are consequences for not treating hearing loss.

“People with hearing loss often feel isolated and frustrated as they find it difficult to participate in conversation and social activities,” she said.

“Often friends and family can also be frustrated at having to repeat themselves.

“We find many people with hearing loss withdraw from social activities as it becomes harder to be included in discussions and day-to-day conversation with friends and family is more tiring as it takes a lot more concentration to communicate with those around you.”

Specsavers Audiology offers free hearing screenings in store to give an indication of hearing.  Free 15-minute hearing checks with an audiology professional are also available to discuss any hearing difficulties and whether further testing is required and can be booked online.

Common noise sources and their typical sound levels

(typical sound level (dB), sound source)

140, Jet engine at 30 m

130, Rivet hammer (pain can be felt at this threshold)

120, Rock drill

110, Chainsaw

100, Sheet metal workshop

90, Lawn mower

85, Front-end loader

80, Kerbside heavy traffic, Lathe

70, Loud conversation

60, Normal conversation

40, Quiet radio music

30, Whispering

0, Hearing threshold

Source: Safe Work Australia