When we think of workplace hazards, the usual suspects might come to mind, like heavy machinery or chemicals. But there’s a silent (well, actually, quite loud) culprit that we often overlook – noise—Have you ever wondered about that ringing in your ears after a long day at work or why your mate at the factory has to ask you to repeat yourself multiple times? It could all be linked to the noise at your workplace.

What is industrial deafness, and what causes it?

Industrial deafness, often known as noise-induced hearing loss, is precisely what it sounds like. It’s the gradual loss of hearing due to prolonged exposure to high noise levels at work. Be it the constant hum of machinery, the clattering of tools, or the roaring engines, these sounds can slowly but surely impact your ability to hear.

You might be thinking, “It can’t be that common, right?” Think again. In Australia, thousands of workers report cases of industrial deafness every year. This isn’t just a minor issue; it’s a significant concern impacting construction, mining, and manufacturing workers. These are just the reported cases; many more might be suffering in silence, unaware of the damage being done.

So, if you’ve ever been curious about the noise around you at work or are concerned about a colleague showing signs of hearing loss, you’re in the right place. As we delve deeper into this topic, you’ll learn about the risks and how to protect yourself and your mates. After all, there’s nothing more Aussie than looking out for one another, right?

Recognising Dangerous Noise Levels

Let’s chat about this mysterious unit of measurement – the decibel, often abbreviated as dB. Think of decibels as a way to measure the loudness of a sound. A whisper might be around 30 dB, while a rock concert can hit levels of 120 dB or more. When you’re exposed to sounds over 85 dB for extended periods, your hearing can become damaged. 

You’d be surprised by the noise some everyday equipment can make, and have you ever been near a jackhammer? Jackhamers can produce noise levels of up to 130 dB. Further, factories’ big industrial machines can produce sounds ranging from 90 to 120 dB. Over time, even equipment producing “quieter” noise can take a toll if you’re around it all day. 

Legal Obligations and Standards

Here in Australia, we’ve got regulations in place to ensure everyone has a safe working environment, including controlling excessive noise. These rules outline the maximum noise levels folks can be exposed to and how long. For instance, if you’re exposed to noise levels of 85 dB, regulations recommend that it shouldn’t be for more than eight hours daily. And the louder the noise, the shorter the recommended exposure time.

What’s expected of employers and employees?

If you’re running the show, you must ensure your workplace meets these standards. That might mean providing ear protection, modifying machinery, or even rotating staff to limit exposure. It’s not all on the boss. As an employee, it’s up to you to use the gear provided, participate in training, and speak up if you reckon there’s a risk.

Don’t play it by ear with compliance.

Sticking to the rules isn’t just the right thing to do; it can save you a fair bit of hassle down the track. If workplaces don’t comply, they can pay hefty fines. There’s also the risk of compensation claims if a worker suffers hearing loss due to the job. It’s pretty clear: staying on the right side of the law benefits everyone.

Knowing about these regulations isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about ensuring that we all go home with our hearing intact at the end of the day. And that’s something worth listening to. 

Noise Assessment and Monitoring

Imagine driving your ute without ever checking the oil or tyres. Bit risky, right? It’s the same with noise levels at work. You won’t know if there’s a problem without regular assessments until it’s too late. By regularly checking things, you can nip any issues in the bud and ensure everyone’s ears stay safe and sound.

The toolkit for tackling noise

When it comes to measuring noise, a few gadgets can come in handy. Sound level metres are a bit like speed guns but for noise. They give you an instant reading of the noise level in an area. Then there are dosimeters – workers wear these pieces of equipment and measure noise exposure over time. Using these tools lets you get a clear picture of the noise landscape and make changes if needed.

Monitoring noise isn’t just a one-off task. It’s an ongoing process that ensures you, your mates, and future generations have a productive and safe workplace for the ears. So whether you’re gearing up to measure noise or getting the experts in, remember: a little effort now can mean a lifetime of good hearing.

Implementing Engineering and Administrative Controls

Imagine you live next to a noisy pub. Instead of moving house, you decide to soundproof your bedroom. That’s a bit like what engineering controls do at work. They’re physical changes made to reduce noise exposure. This could be anything from installing sound barriers around loud machines to tweaking equipment to run quieter. The idea is to tackle the noise at the source or block its path to the workers.

Managing the mob: administrative controls in action

You’ve done what you can with the gear, but there’s still a bit of noise sneaking through. That’s where administrative controls come in. Think of these as strategies to manage how workers interact with the noise. This might involve rotating shifts so no one’s exposed for too long or setting up designated quiet zones for breaks. It’s all about being smart with how and when folks are exposed to the noisy bits.

Striking the balance: productivity and safety hand in hand.

Look, we get it. There’s work to be done, and downtime costs dosh. But here’s the kicker: a deafening workplace isn’t just bad for ears; it can also slow down productivity. Workers might struggle to communicate, make more mistakes, or even face health issues beyond hearing loss. By investing in effective controls, you’re keeping everyone safe and ensuring the job gets done right and on time.

By putting these controls in place, you’re setting up a win-win: a workplace buzzing with activity but not buzzing in your ears. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all after?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Hearing Protection

We’ve tackled the noise sources and set up some clever controls, but there’s one more line of defence for your ears: PPE. Think of it as the hard hat for your hearing. Let’s dive deep into the world of personal protective equipment designed to keep those eardrums safe and sound.

The trio of hearing protectors: plugs, muffs, and caps

First up, let’s chat about the tools of the trade:


These little gems slide right into your ear canal, creating a snug barrier against noise. They’re lightweight, easy to use, and perfect for hot environments where you might not fancy something covering your entire ear.


Think of these as cosy headphones without the tunes. They cover your whole ear, sealing against the side of your head, and offer top-notch protection, especially in super noisy spots.

Canal Caps

A bit of a hybrid, these have a band that sits around your neck or head with small caps that plug into the entrance of your ear canals. Great for folks who are frequently taking their protection on and off.

Looking after your hearing gear

Just like a good pair of work boots, you’ve got to take care of your hearing protection. That means regularly cleaning earplugs and earmuffs, checking for wear and tear, and replacing them when they’ve seen better days. Proper maintenance isn’t just hygienic; it ensures they do their job right.

Training the team: getting everyone on board

Having the best gear in the world won’t help if folks aren’t using it correctly. That’s why training is key. Regular sessions on the importance of hearing protection, demonstration of proper usage, and opportunity for questions can make all the difference. Because, let’s face it, a little knowledge can go a long way in preventing a lifetime of hearing loss.

It’s easy to forget how precious our hearing is in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. But we can ensure it’s protected daily with the right PPE and some know-how. And that sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?

How Industrial Deafness Australia Can Help

Industrial Deafness Australia (IDA) is here to support you. Our dedicated team of legal professionals can provide expert advice and guidance to help you navigate the complexities of an industrial deafness claim.

Moreover, we can help you determine your eligibility for free hearing aids under workers’ compensation laws. These vital devices can dramatically improve the quality of life for those experiencing hearing loss.

So, don’t let uncertainty about industrial deafness keep you in the dark. Reach out to Industrial Deafness Australia today. Because at IDA, your hearing is our priority. 

Don’t wait; call us at 1300 885 356 or visit our offices in NSW, VIC or SA to see how we can help you.

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