In workplaces and everyday life, you are exposed to noise. Exposures to high levels of noise at work or at home can cause permanent hearing damage. Noise-induced hearing loss can affect many aspects of life, including a person's social and educational development and their ability to work. Children and adults who live in noisy environments may face increased psychological stress and anxiety.

The risk from noise depends on the volume of any particular noise and the length of time of your exposure. An everyday example of noisy equipment is a hair dryer, which can be used for one hour before potentially causing hearing damage.

The early signs of hearing damage/loss include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • difficulty hearing on the phone
  • finding it hard to keep up with a conversation
  • feeling tired or stressed from having to concentrate while listening

These problems are often caused by exposure to loud noises throughout your life, including activities like going to concerts, pubs and other live events. In your own workplace a few simple methods can be used to identify if you may be at risk:

  • You have to shout to be clearly heard by someone 2 metres away
  • Your ears still "ring" after leaving the workplace
  • You use equipment which causes loud explosive noise such as cartridge operated tools or guns
  • There a number of vehicles/machines running in an enclosed space

For the majority of staff noise won’t be a problem, where it is, you need to identify what is causing the problem, and look to do something about it.

There are many ways handling and reducing noise exposure. Where possible you should try to remove the cause of the noise, if this is not possible, put in steps to reduce the level of noise before deciding to hand out hearing protection. Below are a few simple tips you can use to reduce noise in the workplace:

  • Purchase low noise equipment where possible.
  • Separate the employee and noise source by moving either further away.
  • Limit the amount of time spent in the noise area, halving the time will reduce the exposure by half.

Where noise in your workplace can’t be reduced further, supply hearing protection and provide instructions and training in its safe use and maintenance. Where hearing protection is required, you may have to attend annual hearing checks.