Listen Very Carefully … IntaTeam News 2006 Exposure to high levels of noise causes stress, tinnitus and permanent hearing loss. Remember, there is no effective cure for either Tinnitus or Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Tinnitus is manifest as a continuous hum, whine or whistling noise caused by damage to the active tuning mechanism of the inner ear. The Tinnitus masks ‘real’ noise received by the ear effectively causing hearing loss and also causing other problems including stress and difficulty sleeping. Tinnitus can be triggered by a single exposure to a loud noise! Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise damages receptors in the inner ear causing progressive hearing loss. It is a cruel fact that the ear is most susceptible to damage in frequency range 4 to 6 kHz, … precisely the range that is used for speech! Hearing loss affects a person’s social life as well as employment by impairing their ability to communicate with family, friends or co-workers and to be aware of what is going on around them. This can result in social isolation and depression and the person may also be at a higher risk of having an accident. There are currently around 170,000 people in the UK suffering as a result of Tinnitus or Noise Induced Hearing Loss. NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS IS VIRTUALLY 100% PREVENTABLE. Research has now shown that exposure to noise at the around the 90dB(A ) 2nd action level set in the current Noise at Work Regulations still results in unacceptable levels of hearing loss. By reducing exposure to 85 dB(A) the risk of hearing damage is significantly reduced. Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 These updated regulations come into force on 6 April 2005. The biggest (but not the only) change is the reduction in action levels and limits. The main ones being Lower Action Level = 80 dB(A) (reduced from 85 dB(A) Upper Action Level = 85 dB(A) (reduced from 90 dB(A). On paper these reductions don’t look that significant until you realise that on the decibel scale a reduction of 3 dB(A) equates to a HALVING of exposure! Another key change is that where workers are regularly exposed to noise above the upper action level it will become mandatory to provide Health Surveillance for noise induced hearing loss. This means that many more employers will now be ‘caught’ by the regulations and that firms with existing noise management programmes will have to extend their controls. In summary if, as an employer, your workforce is likely to be exposed to levels of noise above the limits specified by the regulations you are required to; • Assess the risk to your employees • Take action to reduce the noise exposure producing those risks • Provide employees with hearing protection (if you cannot reduce the noise exposure by other methods) • Make sure that the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded • Provide employees with information instruction and training • Carry out Health Surveillance where there is a risk to health.