The Guide to Safeguarding the Hearing of Staff in Loud Environments (infographic)
There are about 2.2 million door supervisors and bouncers working in the industry and just as many bar staff and waitresses, they are exposed to loud music and high levels of noise regularly that can damage their hearing in the long-term. Currently 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from hearing impairment or deafness, and this is second only to arthritis as the most common complaint of older adults. The cost to the NHS are huge, it was calculated at 450 million pounds back in 2010/2011.
As we can see from the above infographic, hearing damage starts at 85Db and the safe exposure time decreases as the decibels increase. Average clubs and pubs have a noise level of 110 Db and the recommended exposure time is 15 minutes.
There are two types of hearing loss, the first is Conductive Hearing Loss, which is a problem conducting sound waves anywhere along the route through the outer ear or middle ear. Many of the causes include Ear infections, Allergies, Benign tumors, Impacted earwax, Infection in the ear canal or Foreign bodies in the ear. The second is sensorineural hearing loss which is a problem with the inner ear or processing the sound to the brain. Many of these causes of hearing loss are Virus or disease, Hearing loss that runs in the family, Aging or Exposure to loud noise.
Hearing damage has very strong links to how long the person was exposed to high volumes of noise, a level of 85 Db will cause severe hearing loss, but it only gets painful at around 140 db. Prolonged exposure to any noise above 85 Db can cause gradual hearing loss, an increased risk of permanent hearing damage and the possibility of developing tinnitus.
Most sound levels in clubs reach 110 db and pay attention to the power of sound rather than the quality, it is the power that causes hearing damage. It is advised to have at least 10 hours of rest between exposures of extreme noise, foam earplugs block out dangerous frequencies and the average protection that can be achieved is about 10-20 decibels. To put into context, No one would use a chainsaw without wearing ear muffs for any period of time, but club staff are subjected to similar levels of noise without any protection. It is the responsibility of employers of bars and nightclubs to ensure they are complying with health and safety regulations and supply adequate hearing protection.
It’s important to detect the signs of hearing loss early because it may reduce alertness and increase risk to your personal safety, leading to stress, depression and reduced job performance and earning power. Common signs you should look out for are the TV volume on a higher level than normal and struggling to follow conversations at a normal level. Tinnitus is a real problem in our industry, if you have a continuous buzzing, ringing or humming in your ears it is possible you are suffering from tinnitus and it is advised to seek medical advice
Preventing hearing loss is vital, because there isn’t a cure once you have lost your hearing, The Plu’em campaign has been designed to encourage wearing hearing protection anywhere that you are exposed to potentially high levels of noise, we also advise that you wear earplugs or ear defenders in loud areas, try not to stand too close to speakers or sources of loud noise and take breaks from the loud areas regularly. Ear plugs and a good Radio Earpiece can reduce the risk, but it is still important to take care of your hearing.