What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Update: View our new infographic, Doing Something About Workplace Noise

Noise induced hearing loss is the depletion of one’s hearing as a result of prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. When the sensitive structures of the inner ear are damaged, temporary or permanent hearing loss can occur. We experience noise and sound in our daily life, normally at a safe level that does not cause any damage however sound can be extremely harmful when at too high a frequency and when experienced over a long period.

Due to the occupational risk of noise exposure, government standards have been implemented regulating the amount of noise workers are to be exposed to. https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/resources/notices.php#dec172015 

Normal Hearing Cells

Damaged Hearing Cells

Normal Hearing Cells Damaged Hearing Cells

Do Something about Noise

Statistics show that over 40% of men aged 60-69 have a significant loss of hearing. About half of these disabilities have been caused by too much noise exposure in the workplace. 

July 1, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Labour expanded the coverage of noise regulation for all workers in Ontario. These changes will provide an opportunity for workplaces to renew their efforts to reduce noise exposures and thus prevent the ill effects associated with excessive levels of noise. 

SOBANE: A different approach to solving health & safety concerns:

This information is based on materials produced in Belgium by Jacques Malchaire. SOBANE is an acronym for Screening, OBservation, ANalysis, and Expertise. It represents an approach to solve the workplace health & safety problem which stresses providing an appropriate level of expertise. 

Screening is the shop-floor level where workers and supervisor recognize hazards and deal with them directly.

Observation is the next level up, where simple assessment tools are used to evaluate the seriousness of the hazard and make recommendations for improvement – the Health & Safety Committee/Representative and coordinator level of expertise (a few hours of training with practical experience)

The Analysis level implies specialists with formal training in occupational hygiene and/or ergonomics

Expertise refers to recommendations provided by experts (usually outside consultants) with highly technical knowledge to resolve particularly difficult control problems

The philosophy behind the SOBANE approach is that the lower levels are supported by the higher levels in their practical efforts to resolve health and safety issues. Ideally the majority of health and safety issues can be resolved on the shop floor with the health and safety committee/representative and coordinators only getting involved when the shop floor parties need support. Similarly, specialists and experts are called in only when the observation level techniques require further assistance to identify, assess and control particular hazardous situations. Thus the specialists and experts are only called in for the really tough problems where their training and expertise is needed. Simple determinations of whether or not some hazard needs to be addressed do not require specialists or experts. Rather such determinations are either quite obvious to the worker doing the job, or can be assessed using simple “rules of thumb”. Malchaire estimates that up to 80% of concerns can be addressed in the Screening and Observation stages.

This information intended to provide tools for these early stages so that workplaces will be able to address noise concerns efficiently and recognize when they require the support of specialists and experts.

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