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NOISE-INDUCED HEARING LOSS, THE CAUSES, THE CONSEQUENCES, AND THE REMEDIATION AND CONTROL
Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is one of the most prevalent and emergent problems in the organisations, which is anticipated to be further increased by 2050. However, this document has attempted to assess the causes of the problem and found that long-term exposure to sounds or noises with 80 decibels or above increases the risk of NIHL.
Mostly, in industrial areas, the noise of machines is hazardous and contributes to the problem even more. Consequently, the workers suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus, sleep disorders, lack of concentration, fatigue, and other problems.
Moreover, the initiation in the form of hearing conservation programs would be assisting in controlling the problem. The Irish government has also initiated such a program consisting of hearing assessment, protection, and then testing to safeguard the employees from further damage.
However, the problem can be controlled with the usage of engineering controls, the latest technology integration, and strict legislation in occupational Health and Safety Management.
Nic, the Causes, the Consequences, and the Remediation and Control
Being born with hearing impairment is itself an issue but, suffering this problem afterward due to exogenous factors intensifies the issue that demands rigorous care and control. Considering this factor, this document has been designed to outline the core causes underneath the problem of hearing impairment.
However, the focus here is on the noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) within an organisation or workplace. In addition to the statement above, the document attempts to explore the underlying causes of this NIHL from the workplace perspective.
Furthermore, the document has also outlined the benefits of hearing conservation programme and its integration in health and safety management specifically in the context of Irish legislation.
In this section, the wide discussion has been made on the hazardous causes underpinning the NIHL and the consequences and benefits of the hearing conservation programme.
Causes of NIHL in the Perspective of Workplace
The everyday sounds that seem unpleasant to the ear are all categorised as noise. The routine sounds that people usually hear include conversation, television, music, traffic or any other. However, not all noise can be harmful but intensive and above 85 decibels (HealthLink, 2018).
It mostly causes the excessive production of radical cells in the ear while carrying sound waves. In the workplace perspective, those noises include heavy traffic, some employees prefer to type aggressively on the keyboard, the sound of window, air conditioner and other related sound effects. However, long-term exposure to these noises results in NIHL.
By the study conducted by Krichner et al., (2012), ONIHL can also be caused when the person works between long-exposure to the gun-shots sounds. The people who work under the influence of heavy noises produced by the industrial heavy machines are more prone to NHL. Even at a bakery, the noise surpasses the hazardous level that is 80 to 85 decibels. Furthermore, it is not easily detectable as it produces and increases over time.
Moreover, the heavy noises that are harmful and results in the form of NIHL in the industrial context mostly include, lining glass bottles, bowl choppers, milling operations, compressed air, cutting or saw machinery, packaging machinery, wheeled racks or trolleys, blast chillers, compressed air, and others (HSE, 2018).
The frequency of these noises exceeds the tolerable limit that is 85 decibels. According to Hong et al., (2013), approximately 16% of the total hearing loss is attributed to the noise exposure at the workplace. Therefore, NORA (National Occupational Research Agenda) has emphasised innovative research for lessening the adverse impact of the noise or taking certain measures to reduce the noisy machinery.
However, two specific characteristics have been established in NIHL, one- that the duration and intensity in the noise contribute majorly. At the same time, variation in susceptibility of every individual towards NIHL is another characteristics (Sareen and Singh, 2014). Thus, these causes result in various health issues that have been discussed in the next section.
Consequences of NIHL
According to Statista (2018), it is projected that 900 million people are anticipated to be suffering hearing loss by 2050 as compared to 466 million in 2018. Furthermore, most of the people who suffered the consequences of ONIHL belonged to the age group ranging from 30 to 39 by 2012 in U.S. (Statista, 2013).
Hong et al., (2013) further argued that NIHL affects the auditory system of the person and creates sleeping disorders, fatigue, hypertension, and annoyance. It further affects the communication patterns of the individuals (Levey et al., 2012).
Besides, it also influences the concentration level of one person, and tinnitus (illusion of sound while there is no stimulus) is also considered one of its consequences apart from hearing loss (Fligor, 2018). Constant usage of earphones or headphones at the workplace also increases the risk of NIHL and the potential candidate might lose the job too due to the impairment (Lee, 2016).
It implies that the consequences of NIHL are not limited to just hearing-impairment of one or both ears but, the effects are on general routine too. Additionally, the consequences could become adversely affected person undergo in depression which can certainly worsen the consequences.
Hearing Conservation Program
However, the world has not abandoned the people or the problem but, has strived to find a solution to the problem and its potential consequences. ‘Occupational Hearing Conservation Program’ has been initiated by many governments to the government of Ireland (Hearing HealthCare Ireland, 2018).
It has been started to save the workers from the hazards of NIHL. It has been stressed that the program is less costly as compared to claims made in this context. The program’s attributes incorporate firstly, the assessment of the levels of the noise along with the exposure duration.
This assessment leads to further decision making at a workplace in Ireland. According to WHO (2012), the success rate of such programs varies from country to country. Furthermore, some countries such as France, Norway and Italy found to be improving in this context (WHO, 2012).
Moreover, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health suggested that the maximum duration of exposure should be 8 hours maximum while; the frequency should be 85 dBA (Strauss, 2012). Therefore, exposure for 4 hours to 88 dBA amplifies the uncertainty of NIHL.
It implies that with the extension in either duration and frequency affects the problem adversely. According to the Irish hearing conservation program (2018), the workers who are susceptible to NIHL are then provided with ear moulds made of hygienic silicone material.
Further hearing tests are then conducted utilising audiometric testing. Thus, the program consists of hearing assessment, protection and then testing to shield the workers from hearing damage.
Conclusively, certain benefits are attributed to the hearing conservation program for all organisations specifically for Irish organisations. It will help reduce the medical expenses, which would lead to cost-effectiveness and profitability. It is also beneficial for gaining the trust of the employees which would lead to increased aggregate productivity.
Moreover, training the employees regarding NIHL protection would reduce the risk of potential health problems. It implies that the organisation can benefit from the healthy employee in terms of both efficiency and productivity.
Remediation and Control
The following section of the document presents remediation and control techniques, also referred to as the hierarchy of controls in the context of integration in OHSM (Occupational Health and Management safety) of the hearing conservation program. Following have been discussed relevant techniques for the problem in the context of the workplace.
- Engineering controls with the latest technology should be incorporated in the hearing conservation program while integrating it with health and safety management.
- The prevalent enforcement regulation should be altered and negligent safety practices in the organisations should be held accountable.
- The study conducted by Verbeek et al., (2014), found that strict regulations impacted the noise levels in the organisation in the form of a reduction in noise levels.
- Suppose the machinery utilised in the industrial sector has hazardous decibels. In that case, the workers should be provided with adequate hearing protection devices to mitigate potential NIHL, and the clause should be incorporated in the policy.
- Technical interventions should also be added to relief the workers somehow in the perspective of NIHL.
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