Occupational Hearing Loss - could you be affected?

(By Anthony Rowcroft, audiologist, Audiology South)

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing impairment caused by exposure to loud sound. Essentially, the tiny hair-like structures (stereocilia) located deep inside the inner ear, fall over or break off after repeated and strong stimulation. As a result, they no longer transmit signals to the hearing nerves that carry the message to the brain.

Sound that is damaging to our hearing can come from many sources. In some cases, it’s from recreational noise such as loud music or concerts, shooting, or motorsport. In other cases, it’s related to noise exposure in the workplace. There are many occupations where loud noise is commonplace. These include farming, heavy machinery operation, building and construction, joinery work and other trades, factory work, sheet metal work, engineering, panelbeating, and the music industry to name a few. While there is a much greater awareness of the need to protect our hearing from damaging noise today, this was not always the case and many people who have worked in these jobs have been left with damaged ears and permanent hearing loss.

But how do you know if the noise is dangerous? As a rough guide, noise can be hazardous when you need to raise your voice to be heard by somebody standing just a metre away. Also, if your ears are ringing after exposure to noise then there is a risk your hearing could be getting damaged.

NIHL is permanent but the negative affects don’t have to be. Today’s modern hearing aids can be very discreet and very effective in coping with the effects of hearing loss caused by loud noise.

If you think your hearing may have been damaged by your work, visit an audiologist to have your hearing properly tested and for advice about whether a claim to ACC for occupational hearing loss is warranted.

Audiologists can also provide a range of custom-made and specially designed hearing protectors to help protect your hearing from future damage.

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