Is Your Hearing At Risk?

Call for more sound advice in music and entertainment industry      24/05/11

Is Your Hearing At Risk?

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The hearing of people working in the UK's music and entertainment industry is being placed at risk, a leading health and safety body warned today. Here's the press release that we have received:
A health and safety charity is calling for better awareness of how to protect the hearing health of people who work within the UK's thriving music and entertainment industry, as part of Noise Action Week (23 – 27 May).
Latest figures show 21,000 people a year experience work-related hearing problems, while 10 per cent of the nation's adults currently have tinnitus all the time. So today, at the start of Noise Action Week, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is urging employers of the industry to safeguard their staff's hearing by using some simple, low cost techniques.
The Institution is also urging employees to take responsibility for their health and heed the advice they're given. Peter Wilson, an IOSH course trainer who teaches companies in the sector techniques in noise risk management, says that in the worst cases, noise damage can cause severe tinnitus, which has, in the past, led people to develop mental health issues.
He said: "People think that earplugs ruin the quality of the music they hear. This is wrong, and it actually makes it easier for you to hear people who are talking to you while music is playing. It's also a myth that louder is best, as our ears actually become numb to certain levels of sound when it's played at a higher volume, meaning you appreciate it less.
"One extra dose can be all it takes to begin a lifetime of hearing problems, and while people might think the things they do now aren't having an impact, later in life they could find they become partially deaf. That does apply to the crowd too, but for unprotected staff the likelihood becomes so much higher – they're the people we really want to reach,"
he added.
Jason Kinch is DJ JFK, and has been working in the business for 25 years. He's lived with tinnitus for 20 of those and almost had a breakdown because of the condition in 2000.
He said: "The problem with tinnitus is that it's in your head, and the more you listen for it, the worse it gets. "When I was told I'd irreparably damaged my middle hearing range it was hard to take as I thought it would ruin my life. But over the years, I've found ways of dealing with it, like focusing on positive sounds like breathing, instead of the ringing, to help me sleep. "I always wear earplugs now, but the thought that if I'd worn them then it would've saved my hearing never quite leaves me," he added.
Worryingly, British Tinnitus Association (BTA) statistics reflect his experience, as one per cent of adults' tinnitus is so severe it can affect their quality of life.
IOSH is also encouraging employers to take steps to reducing noise risk:
  • Angling speakers away from bars and onto dancefloors
  • Rotating staff to give people breaks from noise
  • Engineeringp-out high frequencies
  • Providing rest areas and breaks
  • Providing ear plugs or defenders
  • Using dose meters to test noise
  • Giving employees hearing tests
The Noise at Work Act 2005 made it a legal obligation for companies to manage the risk their noise levels create. The NEC Group in Birmingham led the way by creating a policy that protects staff at all their venues. This has been used as a blueprint for other UK arenas.
Gemma Prosser, safety, health and environment manager for The NEC Group, said: "We've always strived to protect our staff from harmful noise, but when the revised regulations were introduced we wanted to make sure we had a robust management system in place. "The key is that we got buy-in from the board level down. We have an occupational health department that gives employees regular hearing checks, monitoring potential issues people may have. We also regularly monitor sound at events like concerts to make sure we're not exceeding exposure limits. And we communicate how important it is that staff wear their earplugs and hearing protection – and the team leaders ensure they are actually wearing them whilst here in their work environment."
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