Noise at Work 

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by exposure to harmful sounds that progressively damage the delicate sensory cells the small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain.

Harmful sounds are (1) too loud and last too long – noise generated in a woodworking shop or (2) are very loud and sudden – noise generated by a gun or explosion. The sounds may be encountered either at home, during recreational activities or whilst working within excessive noise at work.

Symptoms of noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially where there is background noise or in group situations
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • listening to music or watching television with the volume higher than other people need
  • finding it difficult to tell which direction noise is coming from
  • Tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears or head.
  • Noise induced hearing loss can be prevented, but not cured.

Employers` responsibilities – Noise induced Hearing loss

The Control Of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 along with The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires all employers, by law, to assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risk or exposure to excessive noise at work.

1st Action level: Exposure to 80-85dB – it is the employer`s ducty to reduce the noise risk

2nd Action level: Exposure to 85+ dB – It is the employer`s duty to ensure workers wear protection and signs must be placed in these areas.

In line with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations, The Health and Work Consultancy runs health surveillance programmes including workplace hearing tests or Audiometry for employees with potential regular contact with noise levels above 85dBA.  The need for health surveillance is determined by employers through risk assessment.

Health surveillance for Noise induced hearing loss - NIHL

Employers need to provide health surveillance:

  • For all workers exposed above the upper exposure action value of 85dB (A)
  • Susceptible individuals if requested exposed between 80-85dB (A)
  • Occasional exposure above 85 dB (A) and the worker may be particularly sensitive to noise.

Sensitivity could be indicated by previous Audiometry (hearing tests), medical history, history of exposure to noise above 85 dB (A) or if there is a family history of early deafness.

Frequency of Noise Health Surveillance assessment includes:

  • New employee hearing tests (within 12 weeks of commencing employment) should be made to establish a baseline of hearing. This should include an noise and work questionnaire and audiometry.
  • Annual audiometry and health questionnaires should be completed for the first two years of employment and then every three years thereafter.
  • Audiometry may be carried out more frequently when an abnormality in hearing is identified, or if the risk of hearing damage increases.

Current hearing tests need to be assessed against those previously undertaken by the worker and assessed according to the HSE categorisation.

The Health and Work Consultancy Noise Health Surveillance assessment includes:

  • A confidential questionnaire
  • Confidential data management and reporting, with employee consent
  • Ear examination (Otoscopy)
  • Pure tone audiometry (hearing test) carried out at your workplace
  • Worker education at time of test
  • Referral to a specialist medical consultant if necessary
  • Permanently retained records (40 years)
  • A record sheet for managers which will satisfy HSE requirements

Further sources of information

If you have any questions about Occupational hearing tests or any other occupational health services for your business in South Wales or the South of England, don't hesitate to call us on 02920 682028 or Contact us.