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
In a survey conducted by RNID (formerly Action on Hearing Loss), 42% of tinnitus sufferers said the condition had an adverse effect on their work. Many people keep it hidden from their employer and colleagues as they fear it might affect their job prospects. However, if undisclosed it can cause a daily struggle:
- 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.
Tips for employers
Employers have a duty of care to protect staff from loud or prolonged noise that is often the cause of tinnitus. Here are some tips for making your workplace safer:
- Read the Health and Safety Executive’s noise advice for employers
- Assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from noise exposure to protect the hearing of your employees
- Provide protection from excessive noise levels, such as ear plugs or ear defenders
- Consider the sound levels of power tools and machinery when buying new equipment
- Book a workplace assessment for employees with tinnitus to identify equipment, support and reasonable adjustments that can help them work more easily
- Make employees aware that sound therapy products are available that offer tinnitus relief and reduce the stress that can make tinnitus worse.
Find out more
If you, or someone you work with has tinnitus, Louder than Words products and services can make life so much easier. Plus, our Tinnitus Helpline offers free advice and support, alternatively call 0808 808 6666 to talk to someone on all issues relating to tinnitus.