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Deaf Awareness Week 19-25th September 2005

14 September 2005

Deaf Awareness Week 19-25th September 2005

Job + Noise = Deafness

Whether you’re a band member, a builder or a bar tender your job could be making you deaf.

Hearing loss is second only to occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) or RSI as the most prevalent occupational disability in New Zealand with many workers having to suffer persistent exposure to loud noise.

The National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) would like people to have a better understanding of what can actually damage their hearing in order to protect it.

Marianne Schumacher, executive manager for the NFD said noise induced hearing loss is caused by sustained exposure to loud noise over several years, usually decades.

“One of the insidious problems of hearing loss is the fact that it often happens slowly. It can be caused by a lifetime of exposure, rather than a one-off incident, and only becomes noticeable after the damage is done.

“Being aware of the noise levels around you at work and taking precautions such as wearing earmuffs can save your hearing,” said Ms Schumacher.

According to ACC, noise induced hearing loss claims shows that agriculture and fisheries workers, trades workers and machine operators and assemblers are the most at-risk occupations.

Over 95% of ACC claims are made by men which is due to the fact that almost all high-noise industries have a predominantly male workforce.

So any job involving a substantial use of power tools, heavy machinery, construction vehicles or mechanised equipment could be hazardous. Also if you spend your days or nights working in bars or nightclubs and even some retail stores where there is constant loud music, it is highly likely you are exceeding safe occupational exposure.

“It is great bar staff are now protected from passive smoking and we hope it will be recognised that sustained exposure to loud noise is also hazardous to a person’s health,” said Ms Schumacher.

It is not just the busy city life where toxic levels of noise abound. Farmers are just as much at risk as any other manual worker of being on the receiving end of potentially dangerous noise. Harvesting machines, mechanised milking sheds, tractors, firearms and quad bikes can all cause damage if there is sustained exposure.

Ms Schumacher said that in all these occupations, there is often emotional rather than physical resistance to doing something about it.

“Often workers in these manual type of jobs have a fatalistic attitude – it’s just part of the job. For instance if you’re a construction worker you will suffer hearing loss, just as if you were a miner you might suffer breathing difficulties. Also there is a degree of not wanting to be different from their peers or colleagues and to remain “staunch” and “tough it out”.

“It is often not until retirement age that the problem is recognised and by then it is too late to turn back the clock and turn down the dial.”

“Youth is no protection to hearing loss. Whether you’re five, fifteen or fifty, if you are in an environment with sustained loud noise, your hearing is going to suffer,” concluded Ms Schumacher.


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