PROTECTING YOUR HEARING
Horns, honking, power tools buzzing, radios blaring: regardless of where you work or live, chances are you're exposed to some degree of "noise pollution".
Long term exposure to loud noises such as these can damage your hearing: unfortunately, many people don't realise the damage that's occurring until it's too late, because it occurs very gradually over time.
How do we hear?
Sound is collected by the outer ear and transmitted through the ear canal to the middle ear, where it is converted into vibrations.
These vibrations are sent to the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea is a snail-shaped organ that is filled with fluid and contains thousands of tiny hair cells.
The vibrations travel through the cochlea causing the fluid to bend the hair cells. As the cells bend, nerve impulses are passed through the auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
What you hear can hurt
See how sound levels can affect hearing. Continued exposure to sound levels above 80 decibels (dB) and louder can lead to hearing loss.
Noise is a serious safety issue. The UK’s noise laws are prescriptive and comprehensive, yet clear, for employers and employees.
(Visit the Health & Safety Executive for full details: http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/)
(For complete guidance, visit Noise at Work, guidance for employers, published by the HSE - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg362.pdf)
HEARING DAMAGE AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
Constant exposure to loud noises can damage these hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss.
Once the hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired. However, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.
The most important step you can take is to avoid constant exposure to noises 90 dB and louder.
If you can't do this, wear airtight hearing protection (pictured) during exposure and take regular breaks. Talk to your hearing healthcare professional about the best hearing protection for your needs.