Noise-induced hearing loss is a silent and invisible injury that does not heal. It is a special concern for those with jobs in loud places. Yet, Hearing Loss Prevention Training is an essential but often underrated part of workplace Safety programs. Employers emphasize prevention of potentially dramatic, expensive events that are immediately OSHA reportable, while employees fail to appreciate their risks and the impact that noise-related hearing damage will have on their lives and maybe on their jobs.
In the interest of continued on-and-off-the-job productivity and quality of life, there is plenty of benefit in employee Hearing Loss Prevention Training for all sides. Here are 4 major reasons why it is important to both spread and heed the noise-danger message.
So far, it is not fixable. It is considered a premature aging of the ears that quickly affects every aspect of life. It can put jobs in jeopardy as hearing degrades due to unrelenting sound assaults. Hearing assistive technology, though now better than ever, will not replace the quality of natural hearing.
Prevention is the best strategy. Know the decibel output of machinery and power tools and incorporate those sound levels into the risk assessment for the job. Pay attention during training sessions. Take hearing protection seriously. It is an immediate defense against loud sound.
Those with hearing challenges don’t understand and misunderstand, especially in loud, noise-confused places. This undermines self-confidence and strains the interactions with colleagues. Misinterpretations, mixed-up and missed messages may result in serious errors and accidents.
Hearing damage takes a hefty social, emotional and even professional toll. Feeling on the “outside” of conversations or interactions often leads to anxiety, isolation and depression. Medical and therapy treatments add to company health care costs and are burdensome for the employee.
It interferes with balance and equilibrium. This increases the risk for slips, trips and falls – OSHA reportable incidents. Missing important sounds, such as alarms in a noise-intense environment adds to Safety risks. Also, especially if one ear is much stronger than the other, it is hard to tell the direction of sounds, such as the beeps of a backing-up truck. Instead of walking away from danger, one might walk right into it.
Hearing loss is tiring. One has to “listen harder.” It takes a lot of energy to concentrate on conversations and presentations, especially in noisy places. Fatigued people become unfocused and inattentive to details, such as “Good Housekeeping” practices. These are certainly threats to personal Safety but also endanger the Safety of others.
In the end…
For all of the above reasons, it is important for employers not to short-cut employee Hearing Loss Prevention Training. For employees, it is vital to heed the message. After all, noise-induced hearing loss affects all aspects of life, personal and professional. Yet, it is preventable! It might be the injury that does not garner the attention it deserves, but it is the injury that does not heal.
To learn more about Hearing and Hearing Loss, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, now in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way