When someone loses their hearing, it can be devastating for them and annoying for others around then. People with poor hearing are often left out of conversations and social activities.

Hearing losses can also cause people to become less efficient at work and study.

Some early warning signs of hearing loss include:

  • ringing in the ears after doing something which exposes you to noise
  • having trouble understanding what people say
  • needing to turn up the volume on the radio or television, even though other people can hear
  • not hearing background noises like the telephone or doorbell.

Key point: If employees experience any of the warning signs of hearing loss, they should talk about ways to control and reduce your exposure to the noise with their supervisor and their health and safety representative.

As a general rule, if the noise around you forces you to raise your voice to make yourself heard by someone a metre away, your hearing may be at risk.

The scale used to measure noise as it is heard by the human ear is written as dB(A). Normal conversation is about 60 dB(A) to 65 dB(A). 85 dB(A) is the level at which you have to raise your voice, while at 90 dB(A) you will have to shout to make yourself heard. Prolonged exposure to noise above the level of 85 dB(A) significantly damages hearing. This is the level at which noise control measures must be taken by employers.

The table below is a guide to some typical noise levels.

Every effort must be made to reduce noise at its source. However, if there is no way to separate people from potentially damaging causes of noise, an employer must provide the correct personal hearing protectors (earmuffs or earplugs). These should be used only as a temporary measure or last resort.

Personal hearing protection should be regularly cleaned and any damaged parts must be replaced.  Personal hearing protection should be kept near the area of noisy activity. Listening to music through headphones does not provide adequate protection from noise.

To help reduce the risk of hearing loss you could also spend less time being exposed to noise. It's up to employers to make sure that no employee is exposed to noise for longer than the prescribed exposure standard.

Key point: People do not adapt to noise. It only seems that way because they have lost their hearing. Lost hearing is gone forever.

Exposure to noise outside work can also be dangerous to your hearing.  Noise in nightclubs and pubs, as well as from personal sound systems, can exceed levels that would be acceptable in the work place.


Students can complete the following Noise activities: