“Da be way oo roec your hearing rom haardu noi eboer i oo onidindly oo hearing roecer around loud noi.” These may seem like nonsense words to a reader, but this is what normal speech and conversation may sound like to an employee who lives with noise-induced hearing loss. (For a translation see the end of this article)
According to Brad Witt, director of Hearing Conservation – Howard Leight / Honeywell Hearing Protection*, safety professionals know the hazards of loud noise … but it is difficult to convey that risk awareness to workers and motivate them to take personal and pro-active actions.
“From the young worker with illusions of invincibility, to the seasoned worker who claims ‘the loud noise doesn’t bother me like it used to’, there are many in our workforce who don’t believe they are personally susceptible to noise damage,” says Witt. “The brain may perceptually grow accustomed to constant noise, but anatomically, the ears can never ‘toughen up’ against hazardous noise. Ears respond to loud noise by losing hearing.”
He states that those illusions of personal invulnerability can be dispelled by providing employees with the hard facts of noise and hearing loss, through an audiogram and the measured noise levels.
“Several studies have found that the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss drops significantly when workers are provided with a copy of their annual audiometric tests and an explanation of the results,” notes Witt. “It is hard to argue with an objective test that historically shows the progression of hearing loss from year to year.”
The dangers of noise can also be illustrated through audio demonstrations and simulated hearing losses; the distorted sentence at the beginning of this article being one example.
“Noise-induced hearing loss typically affects high-frequency hearing, regardless of whether the incoming noise exposure is low, medium or high-frequency noise,” Witt explains. “The affected worker
will have difficulty hearing the high-frequency sounds of speech. These include consonant sounds like: s, k, ch, f, p, th, t and sh. A simple phrase like ‘Tie your shoe’ could sound like ‘_ie _or _oo!’ for a worker with noise-induced hearing loss.”
Thus, by writing out a paragraph and eliminating the listed consonants, you can produce an effective training script to demonstrate the future risk of noise-exposure to workers.
By showing workers their susceptibility to noise damage and demonstrating the future risk, an employer invests in a workforce that takes responsibility for their own hearing protection both on and off the job.
Because … “The best way to protect your hearing from hazardous noise exposure is to consistently use hearing protectors around loud noise.”
* HSE Solutions is the distributor for Honeywell Safety Products in sub-Saharan Africa.