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What are the risks of working without earplugs?

Photo to illustrate work without earplugs

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Nowadays, more and more attention is being paid to the harmful effects of too loud noise. At festivals, in pubs, but also in a professional environment, it is becoming increasingly clear what serious damage too much noise can lead to. A loud pub can be avoided in principle, but at your workplace sometimes you just can't avoid it. Fortunately Audinc provides the best custom-made work earplugs.

Noise standards

Not only deafness, but also the mental consequences of too much noise should not be underestimated. Based on regulations, employers must take appropriate action if there is a violation of maximum noise standards.

In this article, we specifically discuss loud noise in work situations and how it affects hearing and health. We also discuss possible tips for preventing and reducing hearing damage at work, including the use of custom-made work earplugs.

Hearing damage: an occupational disease

In certain occupations, loud noises are unavoidable. Unfortunately, the lack of proper measures often leads to hearing damage, putting hearing damage in the top 3 occupational diseases.

Certain occupational groups are more at risk of hearing damage because their work often involves loud noises. Examples are construction workers, farmers, woodworkers, metal workers, but also police, defense forces, teachers and DJs or artists. Mechanical labor, loud music and noise from equipment can therefore cause hearing damage. It is estimated that as many as one million Dutch people are at risk of hearing damage while working, and that while the consequences of hearing damage impact more than just the hearing itself.

What are the risks of exposure to loud noises?

In the long run, working in a loud environment can lead to hearing damage. Hearing damage can include deafness (the ability to hear sounds or certain tones more poorly), as well as tinnitus. Tinnitus involves tinnitus, which can manifest as a beep, hum or other disturbing sound that is continuously present in the ear. These physical symptoms can lead to many mental problems, such as insomnia, stress, fatigue and even depression.

Woman in workplace with headache due to work without earplugs

When am I at risk for hearing damage?

The ARBO law stipulates that sounds from 80 dB are the limit: above this the employer must provide hearing protection. From 85 dB, employees must actually wear this protection. Incidentally, before hearing protection must be worn, the employer must make an effort to remove or reduce the source of the noise. If that fails, hearing protection must be worn.

At 80 decibels, it is difficult to still understand each other from one meter away without raising one's voice. If one regularly hears sounds of 80 dB, there is a chance of hearing damage. The louder the sound, the more likely the hearing will be directly damaged.

Work earplugs: the solution against hearing damage

Hearing protection is essential to prevent long-term hearing damage. This can be done by wearing ear muffs, which are placed over the ear, work earplugs placed inside the ear, or otoplastics. An otoplasty is an earplug that is specially tailored to fit the ear canal perfectly. By wearing an otoplasty, hearing is optimally protected. The advantage of otoplastics is that these earplugs can have special filters, depending on their use. Thus, it is still possible to follow conversations, but harmful loud noise is filtered out by these earplugs.

Otoplastics are more expensive to purchase than ear muffs or normal earplugs, but they also last a long time. To ensure that the hearing remains well protected, it is important to have the earplugs checked and adjusted from time to time. Once every five years it is wise to have the otoplastics tested for fit.

Are there any other tips to prevent hearing damage?

The most important action to take is to make sure you have appropriate hearing protection. There are also a number of things that can reduce the risk of hearing damage. These tips apply primarily to employers:

  • Using less loud machines. As electrification of machinery fleets becomes increasingly attractive from a sustainability standpoint, now is a good time to invest in this from a welfare standpoint as well. Electric or hybrid machines are a lot quieter than ordinary machines. Of course, this is an action point that the employer in particular can do something about.
  • Maintain equipment properly: a well-lubricated machine makes less noise than old and poorly maintained machines. Therefore, take the time to maintain the machines, lubricate them and replace old parts if necessary.
  • Reduce time in loud environments: whenever possible, it is a good idea to ensure that as little time as possible is spent around loud machines or in noisy areas. Therefore, provide work variety or make procedures more efficient, reducing time spent around loud machines.

As an employee, it is recommended to have a discussion with the employer about the above interventions and remind the employer of its duties as stated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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