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WorkCover Advice

It’s common for people in noisy work environments to experience hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

It’s common for people in noisy work environments to experience hearing loss. For most employers and their workers, prevention is usually better than cure.

Facts about Noise-induced Hearing Loss

  • According to SafeWork Australia (1), permanent noise-induced hearing loss can occur when a person is continuously exposed to certain noise levels over a number of years. It’s also possible to experience permanent hearing loss suddenly from a very loud impact or explosive sound.
  • Around 10% of adult onset hearing loss is caused in the workplace. (2)
  • Exposure to excessive noise can also affect psychological health including anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleeplessness, affect memory and decision making. (3)
  • This loss is the result of the destruction of hair cells in the ear. Once damaged, these cells can’t be replaced or repaired by any currently known medical treatments or technology.
  • Workers exposed to hazardous levels of noise can also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
  • Industries where workers are most susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss include transport, construction, textiles, defence, music industry.

How Much Noise is Too Much Noise?

Decibel (dB) is the unit for measuring sound levels. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.

However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss to happen. (4)

Employer obligations

Under Australian laws, employers are to arrange for baseline hearing tests for their employees when they’re working in certain ‘prescribed’ workplaces. These tests need to take place even if workers are provided with hearing protection.

Prescribed workplaces are those where workers are exposed to certain noise levels for particular lengths of time.

The baseline hearing test establishes a person’s Percentage Loss of Hearing (PLH). Later tests can be compared to this one to see if there have been any changes.

Employers can find useful information on managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work on the SafeWork SA.

Employers can also contact Smart Hearing Solutions to arrange testing for their employees.

Talk to us or check with the experts in your state

Whatever the cause or hearing loss, many people may be eligible to claim all or part of their hearing aids through the WorkCover scheme. WorkCover entitlements are different in every state of Australia, so you’ll need to check first with your local branch.

SA workers can read more on the Legal Services Commission.

For more information about testing or claiming your hearing aids under WorkCover, speak first to your Smart Hearing Solutions clinician. Call 1300 432 776 or book online.

  1. https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/uploaded_files/CoPManagingNoisePreventingHearingLossWork.pdf p 6
  2. Safe Work Australia, Occupational Noise-induced hearing Loss in Australia, Safe Work Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 1.
  3. Safe Work Australia, Occupational Noise-induced hearing Loss in Australia, Safe Work Australia, Canberra, 2010, p. 12
  4. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss