Industrial Hearing Loss – Causes and Symptoms

Worker Wearing Noise Reduction Ear Muffs. Loud Noises Job.

Industrial hearing loss, often called industrial deafness, occupational deafness or noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), used to be a common condition affecting people who work in very noisy environments such as factories and the construction industry. 

This irreversible, but completely preventable condition still happens far too often despite increased awareness of the terrible consequences, resulting in temporary or permanent hearing loss or tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears. 

What is Industrial Deafness? 

Industrial hearing loss caused by loud noises in the workplace can be from repeated exposure over a long time, such as factory noise and machinery in a confined space, or sudden loud noises such as explosions. 

Long term exposure to excessive noise gradually causes hearing loss, so it isn’t noticeable until the damage is done; it’s also the easiest form of deafness to prevent. The constant loud noise damages the tiny cells in the inner ear which can’t be repaired, and the damage only worsens as the exposure continues. 

The Symptoms of Industrial Deafness 

If you’re constantly exposed to loud noises at work with no protection for your ears, it’ll take some time for you notice a significant reduction in your ability to hear properly. 

Often you may be the last to realise there’s a problem, but others will notice that you keep asking them to repeat themselves, or you’ll complain that people are mumbling or not speaking loud enough.  You might also notice that you need to turn up the TV or radio to hear it clearly, or you have trouble following a conversation when there’s a lot of background noise.  

How to Prevent Industrial Hearing Loss 

Preventing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is quite simple once you’re aware of the damage that occurs with constant exposure to loud noises. Workplaces can be tested for acceptable noise levels and steps taken to reduce the noise if it’s too high. Your employer is required by law to reduce your exposure to loud noise. You can also wear protective equipment such as ear plugs and ear muffs and ask to be moved to somewhere quieter if possible. 

Why You Should Get A Hearing Test 

If you work in a noisy environment and you suspect your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, it’s important to reduce your exposure to loud noises and have a professional hearing test as soon as possible to assess the damage. If left untreated, your hearing loss can have an effect on your work performance and even pose a safety risk to yourself and your work mates. 

Once your hearing is damaged, it can’t be restored, but there are ways to help you hear clearly again. 

At Health and Hearing, we have more than 30 years of experience working with veterans, seniors and working Australians, and we’re here to help you with any problems you have with your hearing. 

Call us on (07) 3366 9355 or contact us online to discuss your hearing concerns and book a free no-obligation hearing test and consultation. 

Do you Struggle to Hear with Background Noise Present?

Senior couple in nursing home watching tv

As you get older, your hearing can often diminish, and one of the first signs of hearing loss is the inability to hear clearly in crowded places or where there’s a lot of background noise. This can result in people becoming frustrated and too embarrassed to go out in public and socialise with friends, so they decline invitations and start to feel lonely and isolated at home. 

However, all that can be prevented by visiting your local hearing clinic and getting the help you need. You’ll also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re doing everything you can to improve and retain your hearing. 

What Causes It? 

Often the person can hear well in quiet situations but cannot pick up the softer parts of speech with noise in the background, which means the brain can’t properly translate the sounds into something meaningful. This is because the tiny hair cells in the inner ear become damaged over time and die, which reduces your ability to pick up certain sounds, and filtering out background noise is a complex process that requires both ears to be working precisely. 

Even if we don’t always hear clearly what others are saying, our brains can usually fill in the gaps for us, which is why it sometimes takes a few seconds to understand what’s been said. 

Background noise tends to be at a lower frequency and can block out many of the important speech sounds you need to make sense of what you’re hearing. 

What is SNR Loss? 

The signal to noise ratio (SNR) is the gap between the other’s person’s speech (the signal) and the noise (the background noise), and people with perfect hearing are able to deal with a lower SNR. 

This means if your hearing is impaired, you need a higher SNR to hear clearly. The bigger the gap, the easier you can understand what’s being said – the signal is much louder than the noise. 

How Hearing Aids Can Help 

If you struggle to hear with background noise, it’s likely you have some signal to noise ratio hearing loss, and hearing aids can help. Hearing aids can determine the difference between speech and noise and separate the two so that the speech signal is amplified and the noise is suppressed, allowing you to hear much better. 

Book a Free Consultation 

It’s important to see a professional about any concerns you have with your hearing, especially if you’re struggling to hear with background noise, or you notice any sudden changes to your ability to hear. At Health and Hearing, we have more than 30 years of experience working with veterans, seniors and working Australians, and we’re here to help you with any questions you have with your hearing. 

Call us on (07) 3366 9355 or contact us online to discuss your hearing concerns and book a free no-obligation hearing test and consultation. 

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