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7 -February- 2022

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022: A noble initiative to prevent Tinnitus

The British Tinnitus Association, a registered charity organization in England aims to raise awareness on Tinnitus through Tinnitus Week observed between February 7-13, 2022. Around one in three people experience tinnitus at some point – often a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound in the ear, when there’s no external cause. However, about 13 per cent of the population live with persistent tinnitus – and it can have a big impact.

According to the BTA, 9.3 per cent of people living with tinnitus have experienced thoughts of suicide or self-harm in the last two years, with 87 per cent saying they think about their tinnitus every day.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical condition which is usually described as ringing, buzzing, hissing or other sounds in the ears or head that others can’t hear. Prolonged exposure to loud noise, or even an isolated blast of loud noise, can cause tinnitus. That’s why jobs where sound levels regularly exceed 80-85dB can put employees at greater risk, including factory and construction workers, pilots, dentists, rock musicians, bar staff and motorcycle couriers. Some people aren’t bothered by the condition or find it only mildly annoying. For others, tinnitus can have a negative impact on their mental health, relationships and working life.

The impact of tinnitus at work

  • Poor concentration due to lack of sleep
  • Difficulty following meetings is often exhausting and stressful
  • Straining to hear on the phone can lead to misunderstandings
  • Exclusion from social conversations is isolating.

How to prevent Occupational noise-induced tinnitus?

1. Consider the sound levels of power tools and machinery when buying new equipment

2. Find out whether noise in your workspace is hazardous: Carryout noise levels assessments in your workplace periodically and make sure it is below 85dB

3. Reduce noise exposure:

  • Take a break from the noisy activity regularly
  • Reduce noise at the source of the noise. Use quieter equipment and keep equipment well maintained and lubricated
  • Enclose the source of the noise or place a barrier between you and the source
  • Increase the distance between you and the source of the noise
  • Reduce your time in noisy areas
  • Always wear hearing protection in noisy areas, and if using foam plugs, insert them correctly.

Remember, the right PPE depend on the workplace environment, the type of work being undertaken, and the equipment being used.

Eg. Power tools emit high-frequency sounds and these are better reduced by ear defenders. Low-frequency sounds, such as those from large plant machinery can be reduced with earplugs. Neither option is ideal for a call centre worker who relies on being able to hear a conversation. In such cases, a white noise machine will smooth out peak noise without hampering conversation.

4. Carryout periodic Occupational health survey/assessment

Courtesy: British Tinnitus Association

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