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Industrial Deafness: What Do You Need To Know?

If you work in a loud environment, caring for your hearing health is important.
Feb, 23, 2022

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of injuries sustained at work, but industrial deafness is a condition that affects Australians employed in a wide variety of industries and jobs. If you’re concerned about your hearing health and safety at work, read on to learn more about what industrial deafness is, its causes, common symptoms and more.

What is industrial deafness?

Industrial deafness, sometimes also referred to as industrial hearing loss or occupational hearing loss, is a form of hearing loss that occurs as a result of exposure to high levels of sound within the workplace. The condition may present itself in several ways, including temporary hearing loss, permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.

Industrial deafness may affect those working in a variety of industries, but some jobs do pose a higher risk than others due to the use of loud machinery and frequent exposure to high levels of noise. The condition most commonly affects those working in the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Agriculture
  • Transport, including truck drivers
  • Music and events

What causes industrial deafness?

Industrial deafness primarily develops in one of two ways: from working in a noisy environment for a prolonged period of time without adequate hearing protection or following acoustic trauma, caused by a one-off exposure to extremely high levels of noise.

When our ears are exposed to significant levels of sound over time or in high concentrations, the delicate structures within the ear become damaged, preventing sound from travelling through the ear and being processed as usual. Damage may occur gradually over months or years or, in the case of acoustic trauma, very suddenly.

Symptoms of industrial deafness

The symptoms of industrial deafness may vary from person to person. Still, some of the most common signs reported in those living with the condition include:

  • Temporary or permanently reduced hearing in one or both ears
  • Difficulty understanding speech in settings with high levels of background noise
  • A constant ringing, whistling, hissing or buzzing in one or both ears
  • Difficulty hearing the radio or television
  • Missing portions of conversations despite paying attention
  • Difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds, including the voices of children and women

If you have noticed changes in your hearing or some of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to have your hearing checked. Book a free hearing test at your local Amplifon clinic.

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How can you treat industrial deafness?

As the condition can affect people in several different ways, from temporary hearing loss to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, the best course of treatment for industrial deafness will vary from case to case.

Treatment may not be required for those who experience temporary hearing loss in one or both ears. Avoiding loud sounds and giving the delicate hair cells within the ear time to rest should see hearing restored within a day or so. If your hearing does not return to normal within a couple of days, seek medical attention.

If industrial deafness leads to permanent hearing loss, the use of hearing aids may be recommended. The individual needs of each person living with the condition are assessed to find the best option for their lifestyle. With so many different types of hearing aids on the market, there’s an option available to suit most people.

When industrial deafness causes tinnitus, meditation, the use of hearing aids, and some lifestyle and diet changes may be recommended to help manage the symptoms experienced. Unfortunately, tinnitus cannot be cured, but your audiologist can share helpful strategies that provide some relief.

How to prevent industrial deafness

Unlike some other forms of hearing loss, industrial deafness can often be prevented. Some steps that can be taken to help reduce exposure to high levels of noise in the workplace include:

  • Ensuring adequate hearing protection, such as earmuffs and earplugs, is worn while working in loud environments
  • Regularly checking that all hearing protection equipment is in good working order and used appropriately
  • Where possible, reducing the amount of time exposed to high levels of noise
  • Introducing soundproofing and noise reduction equipment
  • Having your hearing regularly tested, so that any changes can be monitored

As the symptoms of industrial deafness may not be noticed for months or years, especially when prolonged exposure is involved, it’s essential that all preventative measures are used consistently wherever possible.

Compensation for industrial deafness

Your hearing is important, helping you interact with others and enjoy the world around you. If you’ve developed industrial deafness in a workplace where adequate measures haven’t been taken to protect your hearing health, you may be entitled to compensation. Entitlements vary between states and territories but may include monetary compensation and access to hearing devices.

Claiming compensation can be a long process, but if you think you are living with industrial deafness, the first step is to undergo a hearing assessment. We can help determine how severe your hearing loss is and the type of hearing loss you are experiencing.

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