According to the Hearing Foundation Canada (stats. 2002), more than one million adults suffer from hearing loss, however the number can be as high as 3 million since many cases do not get reported. This could cost an estimated loss of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.
Ontario’s Workmen’s Compensation Board treats noise-induced hearing loss claims as work related injuries.
In an adverse working environment, the part of the human nervous system that is most likely to be affected is the auditory nerve. The micro hair cells (cochlea) in the inner ear can be easily damaged by high noise level, especially if protracted. The hearing loss initially begins with an auditory frequency of 4 to 6 kHz that impacts speech discrimination. According to Dr. Chris Ide, only 5% of those exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels (dBA) for 8 hours a day over a 30 year period will progress to significant levels of hearing loss. However, with properly conducted audiometric surveillance, it is not always possible to predict which individuals belong to this group
When a noise hazard exists in a work facility, caution-signs and the use of hearing protection equipment are the most commonly employed control measures to mitigate the noise risk. However, organizations with a high level of commitment to health and safety always aim to eliminate the source of noise by adopting suitable engineering or technical control measures such as anti-vibration pads, motors running silent, acoustic enclosures, rubber or nylon coated metal surfaces, etc. Organizations that fail to inform their machinery suppliers of their expectation for less noisy pieces of equipment miss a great opportunity to make their workplaces healthier and safer. Noisy work areas interfere with communication and attention-related problems at workplaces. A corporation that spends its hard-earned money on PPE (personal protective equipment), noise monitoring and health surveillance, creates a recipe for systemically draining profit.
Equipment or tool vibration tends to be the biggest cause of noise hazards in a workplace.
Vibration can cause occupational illnesses ranging from hand-arm-vibration-syndrome (HAVS), muscle fatigue, as well as nausea to those exposed. Vibration also affects the life span of equipment and leads to large sums of money being spent on equipment maintenance.