The Need for Hearing Protection in the Work Place

Hearing protection is an increasingly important issue in the work place. Generally speaking the need for protection arises when your voice can not be heard above the surrounding sound or when one develops ringing in their ears.

Industry has legal obligations under the National Code of Practice for Noise Management and Protection of Hearing at Work to regularly monitor the work environment. Regular screening audiometry must be conducted with employees who work in industries that are subject to noise levels. These industries include both primary and secondary industries. Research conducted by Farm Health and Safety Research Venture in 2002 claims that two thirds of 6000 farmers tested have noise injury (noise induced hearing loss).

The main culprits are non-cabined tractors, feeding pigs in sheds and chain saws. Additional research into noise exposure in young adult farmers shows that there are currently 23% of young adult farmers with a noise induced hearing loss in the right ear and 27.9% with a noise induced hearing loss in their left ear. The greatest damage though occurs in the construction and heavy manufacturing industries.

There is considerable evidence that noise provides a risk to the hearing health of workers in the building and construction industry. Demographic studies show the incidence of noise induced hearing loss is as high as 60% in noisy workplaces. Current hearing protection practices appear to be having little impact on the level of hearing injury to workers. Studies of the construction industry, in Australia have indicated that there is a low awareness of the risks posed by noise, with consequent minimal self-protective behaviours. Investigations into the extent of use of personal hearing protection indicates that workers perceptions of risk, and their need for communication are important aspects of the decision to use or not to use hearing protection.

Services which look in to whether or not a person is subject to industrial deafness include looking at the medical and social history relating to noise, ear checks (otoscopy) and writing reports with recommendations and referrals when needed. However better than dealing with issues after a person becomes industrially deaf it is better to have preventative measures in place. This means providing hearing protection. The amount of protection required though depends on a number of factors. These factors typically mean the difficulties in communicating in the work place, discomfort and inconvenience.

The preferred means of hearing protection in the work place is the use of ear muffs or ear pieces. However in the past ear muffs have only provided limited protection. Recently though hearing protection ear muffs have been greatly improved with Sensear technology which has the ability to enhance the speech signal that are received in noisy work or social environment and improves the quality of life for people who are already affected by occupational hearing loss.

The speech enhancement of Sensear isolates and enhances speech in real-time that enables users to hear speech clearly and safely in an environment. Sensear's speech enhancement technology is effective for mobile phone calls and two-way radio communication as it improves the wearer's speech as well as lowers background noise to a non competitive level.


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