The personal effects of noise-Induced hearing loss (NIHL)

PPE - March 17, 2013 - 0 comments

ss3_portraitNoise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a dangerously insidious form of damage that is permanent.

These elements of subtle build up and permanence are a very dangerous mixture which can significantly affect a person’s ability to lead a normal social life.

In this HearForever video, Brad K. Witt MA CCC-A, debunks the myth that noise-induced hearing loss results in speech simply sounding softer. Words become seriously difficult to comprehend because the high frequency consonants are distorted.

For a sufferer, it becomes very difficult to fill in the gaps if the speaker’s face is not visible. This can be a very serious issue in social and work environments.

Video: Brad K. Witt MA CCC-A Director of Hearing Conservation for Howard Leight® / Honeywell Safety Products

NIHL is particularly dangerous for a number of reasons:

  • Damage is painless when it is happening
  • Damage is internal – no external evidence
  • Damage progresses slowly over years
  • Damage is permanent

However, the good news is that NIHL is completely preventable

HSE Advice

Noise is part of everyday life, but too much noise can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage. This can be hearing loss that gets worse over time, damage caused by sudden, extremely loud noises, or tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears).

With hearing damage, conversation becomes difficult or impossible, your family complains about the television being too loud, you have trouble using the telephone, and you may be unable to sleep. By the time you notice, it is probably too late.

Whilst Noise-induced Hearing Loss means irreversible damage to the ears caused by exposure to high levels of noise, there is no need for your hearing to be damaged by your work – your employer has a duty to protect you and should be working on measures to reduce the risk. You can play a part in helping your employer to protect you.

For guidance on what you and your employer can do, see the following document:

Noise: Don’t lose your hearing!

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) in Great Britain

The number of new claims for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss disablement benefit has fallen slightly over the last ten years.

150 new claims for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss disablement benefit were assessed in 2011. (IIDB)

Since 2007, all new cases have been awarded to males.

The industries with the largest number of new cases are: manufacturing, construction and extraction, energy and water supply.

The LFS survey suggests that the average total case number of NIHL caused or made worse by work from 2009/10 – 2011/12 is 19 000 cases.

Total cases of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) assessed under Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) for GB 1995/96 – 2010/11

deafnessfig1Is your workplace noisy?

Audio/visual demonstration of noise induced hearing loss

Noise induced hearing loss is irreversible damage to the ears caused by exposure to high levels of noise. These recordings demonstrate how hearing is gradually lost over a working life. In the demonstrations you will hear the effects of both noise exposure and ageing on hearing.

Audio/visual demonstration of noise induced hearing loss

Controlling the risks of noise at work

Loud noise at work can damage your hearing. The HSE has produced a leaflet to help you to understand what you need to do under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) and how you can protect your employees from noise.

It will also be useful to employees and safety representatives.

It tells you about:

  • The harm that noise can cause
  • What you have to do under the Noise Regulations
  • How to assess and control noise at work
  • Personal hearing protection
  • Consulting with your workers
  • Health surveillance

Noise at work: A brief guide to controlling the risks

Control of noise at work in music and entertainment

The HSE has produced a document containing practical guidance on the control of noise in places like concert halls, theatres, amplified live music venues, pubs/clubs and studios.

The book was put together by representatives across the spectrum of the British music and entertainment sectors, Environmental Health Officers and the Health and Safety Executive.

Offering simple, sensible and solution-based advice in order to meet regulations, the emphasis is on preventing irreversible hearing damage not enjoyment. In two sections, firstly a guide on what you need to know and advice for specific sections of the industry.

Sound advice: Control of noise at work in music and entertainment

Myth-buster: Noise in music and entertainment sectors

Other HSE sources of guidance and information on the control of noise at work. They also provide links to practical solutions for controlling noise, presentations, research and statistics on noise.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

If noise levels in the workplace cannot be brought under dangerous levels then the supply and correct wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) becomes necessary.

Noise Hazard is a combination of sound level and duration of exposure, very high-level sounds are a hazard even with short duration.

PPE options include earplugs, Earmuffs, Semi-insert/canal caps and Digital Radio & Electo Earmuffs.

Note that employers should provide the right hearing protectors for the type of work, and make sure workers know how to fit them

Choose protectors that reduce noise to an acceptable level, while allowing for safety and communication.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

A short guide to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

Useful Supplier Links

Howard Leight introduces new Sync Digital Radio & Electo Earmuffs

Pilot 3D Demo

Honeywell Safety Products

Howard Leight products at Protec Direct

When should personal hearing protection be used?

Hybrid push-in style ear plugs


Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.


Do you have experience of noise-induced hearing loss or feel you work in a very noisy workplace where damage could be happening? Please feel free to add your comments below.


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