For some jobs, the risks associated are clear from the get-go,but have you ever thought about how your job might be putting your health at risk of things such as hearing loss?
With October marking National Protect Your Hearing Month, the experts at Boots Hearingcare have carried out data analysis to reveal the noisiest jobs which put workers’ ear health at risk.
The research revealed that of the job roles included, emergency service workers are most at risk of damaging their hearing at work. This is due to the loud sirens used to alert the public of an emergency.
When it comes to noise levels,consistently being exposed to anything measuring more than 70 dB (decibels) can start to cause damage to hearing after two hours of constant noise, and any sounds measuring more than 120 dB can cause immediate hearing issues.
To put that into perspective, the average conversation is around 60 dB and considered the average noise level that your hearing should be exposed to on a constant basis.
Considering that emergency service vehicle sirens measured at 114 dB when tested, any workers exposed to this for long periods of time could be severely at risk of damaged hearing.
Feraz Ashraf, Senior Audiologist at Boots Hearingcare explained: “We take our hearing for granted a lot of time. Because we are exposed to lots of sounds each day, we assume our hearing can process all these signals with ease and the effects are not always immediately noticeable.
“That’s why we’ve delved into the data to find out which jobs or hobbies are most likely to cause strain to the hearing, from short to long periods of time, hopefully creating a better awareness of the matter. It was interesting to see how many typical jobs made the list, such as a gardener, or a even a hairdresser.”
Top 16 noisiest jobs
Three of the noisiest professions are emergency services related, with police officer and ambulance worker both also making the list individually.
Hospitality related roles also feature as some of the most at risk jobs, as bar staff, DJ and night club worker all feature due to the loud music levels at the venues. Not only does this mean workers are at risk, anyone that frequents a venue with loud music will also likely feel the impact on their hearing.
Construction related jobs such as construction workers, tree surgeons, iron workers and welders unsurprisingly appear as some of the jobs most likely to have a negative impact on hearing, as workers operate loud machinery. Workers in these professions are likely to be provided with hearing protection equipment to minimise the risk involved, although if you are self-employed it’s important to ensure you have the correct awareness and training around ear health.
Nick Higginson, CEO of Phoenix Health & Safety, said: “A construction site is a very loud workplace, with all manner of noises caused by machinery, movement of materials and communication between workers. It can be a challenging environment in which to protect your hearing, but there are steps you can take.
“All site workers should wear hearing protection at all times whilst on site to minimise the amount of noise their ears are exposed to. Where possible, site managers should also look to rotate staff in particularly loud areas, meaning that individuals are not exposed to loud noises for long periods of time.”
More surprisingly, cleaners and hairdressers are both exposed to sounds higher than 70 dB on a regular basis, with vacuum cleaners and hairdryers measuring at 75 dB each.
Feraz adds; “While you wouldn’t typically see an immediate negative impact to your hearing from running a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer on, over long periods of time this can take it’s toll and increase the risk the likelihood of ear damage such as tinnitus, so it’s important to be careful when working in these jobs.”
How you can protect yourself
If you work in one of the industries listed, fear not, there are ways you can protect yourself from hearing loss. Feraz Ashraf, Senior Audiologist at Boots Hearingcare has shared his expert tips:
1. Take a free hearing test
Feraz suggests: “If you’re concerned about hearing loss, one of the best things to do is book a free hearing test to see what condition your ears are in. The test will be able to pick up whether there’s cause for concern, and experts can provide you with all the information and tools to help prevent any further damage and support with safe guarding.”
2. Ask your employer to provide protection
Feraz says: “If you’re consistently working in a loud environment and you’re worried about the impact it’s having on your ear health, speak to your employer about protective equipment. Whilst many of the perhaps more obvious industries such as construction provide hearing protection tools like ear defenders or ear plugs for their workers, some of the lesser known jobs on the list may not provide this without being asked.
“As an employer, they have a duty of care to ensure that your wellbeing needs are met in the workplace, so they should take your request seriously.”
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it
Feraz explained: “Hearing loss is not always an easy thing to talk about, you might not want to admit that you’re going through it, and continue to struggle through conversations and social interactions pretending nothing is wrong. The average person waits 10 years before accepting they have hearing problems and might need a hearing aid. There’s absolutely nothing embarrassing about having hearing issues, in fact, more than 1.5 billion people globally are currently experiencing some form of hearing loss.
“Speaking to the experts and taking the steps to improve your ear health will massively benefit you, and your wellbeing in the long run.”