The Sound of Safety

The Sound of Safety Means Improving Safety Behaviors--Call to Action!If you regularly work around loud noises, your organization likely has policies for improving safety behaviors by using earplugs and other protective gear. But if you then drive home with the car stereo blasting away, protective behavior just at work won’t end up doing you much good.

The cumulative effect of loud music, loud machinery and all types of loud noises is hearing loss, often long before you hit your senior years. You can prevent most noise-induced hearing damage by following a few common sense precautions.

More than 10% of the people in the U.S. have trouble hearing what people are saying to them, either in person or over the phone, due to hearing loss. Part of this is caused by the fact that more than 25% of American workers are surrounded with noise levels on the job that can affect hearing. But much of it is the direct result of repeated loud noises at home and at play.

Detecting Early Hearing Loss

One of the first signs of damage is when a person can no longer distinguish words that sound very similar, like home and groan. The first things to go in most cases of noise-induced hearing loss are the higher frequencies. Asking people to repeat a sentence is a good indicator that this type of hearing loss has already started.

Normal conversation occurs in the range of 60 decibels, while whispers occur around 30 decibels. For comparison, a jet at close range will hit about 140 decibels. If your ears are repeatedly subjected to 85 decibels, which is the range of a busy street, hearing loss will follow. The louder the noise, the quicker the loss.  50 things you must know about safety leadership

The Dangers of Ear-buds

Media players, whether in mp3 devices, tablets or smartphones, are everywhere. The ability to get lost in good music without bothering people nearby has been one of the most popular advantages brought about by advances in micro-technology over the last 20 years.

The problem is that headphones that fit in the ear, commonly called ear-buds, are one of the prime culprits for noise-induced hearing loss. The most modern ear-buds fit snugly in the ear canal, which means sound is directed straight into the aural chamber, delivering high intensity levels of sound. The hair cells in this inner ear are easily harmed by constant use, even if the volume is relatively low. In the past, foam headphones that looked like ear muffs left a gap between the music speaker and the delicate inner ear. But because newer headphones fit so tightly, over 10% of the population in the age range of 6 to 19 have a hearing loss.

The obvious solution is to ditch the ear-buds and return to foam headphones.

When To Use Protective Ear Devices

Improving safety behaviors to prevent hearing loss takes just seconds but provides benefits that last a lifetime. If you go to a concert or even a car race, consider wearing earplugs made of foam. It reduces the noise level enough to safeguard your hearing, but not so much that you can’t enjoy the event.

Use protection for your ears when doing chores around the house, including:

  • mowing the lawn
  • operating a chainsaw
  • blowing leaves
  • using power tools

If you hunt or go target shooting, protective gear for your ears is a must. Gun shops carry a range of devices that will allow you to enjoy your hobby while saving your hearing.

fctc-online-bannerSimply avoiding loud noises is another way to prevent damage. If you go to clubs, be sure to sit well away from the speakers, which are notoriously loud. At home, use the volume control on your television and stereo remote control device to lower the noise level.

When your hearing goes, you can’t buy a new set of ears. Surgery doesn’t help for noise-induced hearing loss. You can get fitted for hearing aids, but they provide a very poor substitute for your normal hearing. improving safety behaviors by using ear protection and by avoiding repeated loud noises, both on the job and off, will ensure you are enjoying sounds for years to come.

~Mary Hannick

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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.