While some may see the the need to undertake audiometric testing when starting off in a new job as a threat to their persons and their job, especially if they do suffer a hearing impairment, it is not so. These kinds of tests are put in place by most employers as a means of protection against for both the employer and employee. It has become a steadfast part of the OHSA and should be incorporated into any business and employment proceedings. This should ring true for any new employee entering any business within the workplace.
How Does This Kind of Testing Safeguard the Employer
When a new contract is started with any new employee, audiometric testing should be part of the induction program. These tests should always be carried out by professionals who are certified by the health and safety board. Proper and correct documentation and storage of results is paramount. These initial test results will be held as baseline results against which any future test results will be measured. Audiometric testing should be carried out regularly, at lease once yearly. Results must be made available to the employee whether there are abnormalities noted or not.
Carrying out this audiometric testing on all employees safeguards the employer against future compensation claims that may very well not be the companies concern at all. An employee may very well have started off their employement period with a pre-existing hearing condition that went unnoticed due to lack of a baseline test. On carrying out such audiometric testing at a later stage, this impairment may be picked up and could be blamed on the noisy work environment. An employee may not necessarily admit that the condition was there before employment and may simply take advantage of the companies lack of evidence otherwise.
What could arise from a situation like this is that legal means are pursued either by the employee or the employer and in most instances the lack of proof of a pre-existing condition leaves the company wide open to compensation claims. This process can be tedious, time consuming and costly. What is worse is that it could have been prevented if the company followed procedures correctly.
How Does This Kind of Testing Safeguard the Employee
Ons tarting a new position of employment, an employee should request audiometric testing, especially if the environment in which they are going to work is a noisy one. As daunting as this kind of testing may be, this could be your saving grace. A baseline result will be kept on file against which all future results will be measured. Regular, annual testing will quickly reveal whether any decline in hearing has taken place during the period of work at the company and it will be safe to make assumptions that this has been caused by the noisy work environment. Claiming compensation for the damage caused will not need to be a long, drawn out process where it becomes a legal battle.
By identifying any hearing impairment to begin with allows the employer the opportunity of providing the best hearing protection available in order to prevent further damage to what hearing is left.
Danger In The Workplace
Many people do not realise how much you rely on your hearing to prevent you from entering harmful situations or injuring yourself. In an industrial environment where there are many machines and large construction vehicles which may be moving around. If you can’t hear these hazards approaching then you may as well strap a target to your back. Simple things like hearing someone shout a warning on the workshop or warehouse floor can be the difference between safety and injury. Besides putting yourself at risk, you also put those around you at risk at the same time. Studies has revealed shocking statistics which state that for every dB of hearing lost the risk of being hospitalised due to injury increases 1%. In any working environment where the noise levels reach over 100dB the risk of serious work related injuries increases two and a half times when compared with employees that are not subjected to loud noises. These statistics as alarming as they might be are very real and the dangers caused by hearing loss in the industry are a reality that nobody can deny.
How To Protect Your Hearing Impaired Workers In The Event of Fire
In any industry, fire is a hazard that is very real. It is best to incorporate smoke and fire alarms that have a low frequency siren as these are more eaily heard by those who suffer with hearing loss. If you, as a company, are aware that some of your staff may be hearing impaired it is for their own safety and your safeguarding that you implement these low frequency alarms into the workplace. Relying on normal smoke and fire alarm signals if you are hearing impaired is not going to work and should an emergency situation arise, injury will be a factor that could have been somewhat prevented.
Soft Noise Dangers
There are many dangers around us that don’t involve noise and alarms and these dangers can be just as hazardous as those associated with noise. The call of a co-worker for assistance in a quiet situation or even the reverse horn on a forklift are all soft noises that are often unheard by hearing impaired individuals. As it is daily life is filled with hazards and dangers and the inability to hear the normal warning signs makes you more vulnerable than most to injury and harm. If you are unable to hear loud or soft dangers you put yourself and all those around you at risk and it is time for an evaluation and thorough audiometric testing.
Hearing aids in present times have become quite modernised and sleek and in many cases go completely undetected. This is not the time for vanity, the safety of those around you, as well as yourself is far more valuable. The thing with hearing aids is that often the wrong selection is made for an individual and because of the discomfort it causes, they just don’t wear it. A hearing aid needs to be fitted for comfort as well as efficiency. Chances are the first one you fit is not going to be the one for you. With such a wide variety and so many brands on offer, your perfect hearing device is out there just waiting for you to try it out. Take the time and make the selection that you know you will wear. Do it for your safety and the safety of those around you.
Types of Hearing Loss
From birth – There are those who are subjected to hearing impairment or profound deafness from birth. These individual have never experienced what it is like to hear and in many cases this does stunt the development of a child, creating communication and social problems that go far beyond childhood.
Noise induced hearing loss – This type of hearing loss is the one most commonly found in industrial work conditions. Prolonged exposure to continuous loud noise damages the fine hairs on the nerves in the ear canal and the sound waves or impulses are prevented from reaching their destination. Noise induced hearing loss happens over an extended period and is not repairable. Hearing devices need to be used in order to hear clearly and with ease.
Tinnitus – Ringing in the ears. This affliction can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Temporary hearing loss – this occurs when you have been subjected to short periods of extremely loud noises for instance a music concert. Your hearing is impaired for sometime thereafter, however, it does revert back to normal after a short period.
Hearing loss no matter how minor or severe can seriously affect normal functioning. You may or may not even be aware that your hearing is slowing being lost until it is far gone. We rely on our hearing to converse and communicate, it is the foundation on which children learn language skills and develop into social beings that are capable of maintaining relationships. Without hearing your world is in disarray. What was once clear as crystal may now be muffled. You exhaust yourself simply trying to keep up with a conversation and often rely on your lip reading skills without even thinking about it.
I speak from experience here as my hearing loss developed over time. Mine is however rectifiable with two operations, one on each ear. In my case the three tiny bones that vibrate to relay the sound had calcified preventing any vibrations and of course the resultant sound. The bone in question was removed and replaced with a replica and voila, after a few days of very blocked hearing and vertigo my ear suddenly popped open and it took a while for me to adjust to the loud noise which to any other was normal. I haven’t undergone the second as of yet, but will definitely do so. Without even realising it I had become so accustomed to lip reading that when put under audiometric testing where the tester covered her mouth, I was at a loss. As is apparent there are some instances where operating does solve the problem, of course it is costly but can you really put a price tag on it?
Your hearing is a valuable asset, one that should never be squandered because once gone the chances of you getting it back as it was is virtually zero. This is something that you are lucky enough to have, as not all do and it makes life easier and safer on every level. Communication is a huge part of being human and without it every area of your life is affected. From learning language skills, developing relationships, following instructions and even dishing out instructions of your own. Don’t take your hearing for granted.
The bottom line is that should you even have an inkling of an idea that you may be experiencing hearing loss due to work related noise, be sure to request follow up audiometric testing before the problem becomes unmanageable. Yes, your company may hold annual audiometric testing, however that may be too far away to wait. Approach your employer immediately, they will never deny you audiometric testing and should a problem be recognised there is still time to apply additional precautionary measures to safeguard the hearing you still have. Besides this fact, you will help to prevent putting yourself at risk in the workplace as well as those around you. Audiometric testing is there to assist you, not shed you in a bad light to your employer. Taking initiative to prevent further damage when you recognise a problem will more often than not put positive thoughts about you into the mind of the employer. They may view you as responsible and concerned about the well-being of the company and your co-workers as well as your own health and fitness to perform your tasks successfully.
Take control of your life, your safety and your healthy today. Yes, a job is imperative to survival, however, the conditions must be adequate to maintain a healthy lifestyle which doesn’t affect your health in any way. Ensure your company allows you to undergo regular audiometric testing and follow up testing and verify the results with you. There is really no use carrying out tests and ignoring or paying no heed to the results. The results are an indication of whether or not additional action or precautionary measures are required and they need to be seriously considered from the point of view of the employer as well as the employee. As an employer is must be remember that a healthy, happy workforce is one that is productive and as an employee it must be remembered that having an employer who shows care and consideration for you personally rather than just the bottom line figure is something that is not heard of often so appreciate it and make the most of this amazing opportunity.