Between 2006 and 2015, almost 30,000 people in Ontario had an allowed noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) claim, according to the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). This accounted for about 23 per cent of all allowed occupational disease claims.
“Unlike cuts and bruises, NIHL happens gradually, is rarely painful and often takes years of exposure to develop,” said Tom Teahen, WSIB president and CEO. “Damage that starts early in life usually isn't noticed until years down the road, so it’s something most of us don’t think about until it’s too late. But once hearing loss occurs, it's permanent.”
NIHL is a permanent loss of hearing, usually in both ears, resulting from inner ear damage due to prolonged, continuous or intermittent hazardous noise exposure. One-half (51 per cent) of workers were 65 years of age or older when diagnosed with NIHL. The top two sectors with allowed NIHL claims over the last 10 years are: manufacturing (26 per cent) and construction (15 per cent).
Male workers accounted for 95 per cent of allowed NIHL claims, according to the WSIB.
The bottom line is that noise at work can result in hearing loss and workers need to protect themselves. NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that's completely preventable. To avoid damage to your hearing, it’s as simple as using earplugs.
With its new awareness campaign, the WSIB hopes to encourage people to make healthy changes to protect their hearing health, and reduce their exposure to hazardous noise levels at work.
The campaign uses online videos to illustrate the impact hearing loss could have. It also encourages people to visit an interactive website — www.toneitdown.ca — to see how their hearing compares to the average person and obtain information about the risk of NIHL.
“Our goal is to encourage everyone to factor hearing protection into their safety practices at work,” said Teahen. “If you understand the dangers of noise, you can protect your hearing for life.”
Harmful noise levels start as low as 85 decibels – that’s the equivalent of the noise in a busy restaurant. If you need to raise your voice to be heard, then the noise level around you is high enough to cause hearing loss. If you’re exposed over a long period of time, your hearing will likely be affected later in life, said WSIB.