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FAQs for Employees

Do I have a problem with noise at work?

Both the noise level, measured in decibels, and the duration of exposure to it, need to be taken into account when determining whether you have a problem with noise at work. You should consider the following questions when making an assessment of the situation:-

* Are you exposed to repetitive noise continuously throughout the working day?
* As a result of noise in the workplace, do you need to raise your voice in order to be heard by your colleagues?
* Is noisy machinery used for more than thirty minutes at any time during the working day?
* Is the industry in which you work particularly noisy, in general terms? This may be the case in engineering, manufacturing, production or construction work.
* Does any noise occur as a result of impacts such as hammering, drop forging or due to detonation of explosives?

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions then you may have a noise problem at work and your hearing may be at risk.

Are there treatments for hearing-related conditions such as tinnitus?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to treat hearing-related conditions that occur as a result of noise damage. Permanent hearing loss can happen suddenly, following exposure to an extremely loud noise such as from an explosion, or it can happen gradually, as a result of prolonged exposure to noise. If damage is not permanent, there is likely to be full or partial recovery of hearing over time and any concerns about noise in the workplace should be raised as a matter of urgency in order to avoid permanent damage. Medical advice always be sought when pain or discomfort is experienced.

Tinnitus is a potentially distressing condition affecting hearing, which often presents symptoms of ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming sounds in the ears. Excessive noise exposure can cause the condition and sufferers complain of discomfort and even sleep disturbance. There is no known treatment currently available for noise-induced tinnitus but further information is available on the British Tinnitus Association website.

What if I’m self-employed?

Self-employed people need to protect themselves against noise damage in the workplace in the same way as employers are obliged to provide for their employees. It is imperative that protective equipment, such as ear defenders, are worn as necessary.