What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Our ears are full of very sensitive cells that allow us to hear. Exposure to noise can damage these cells. This damage can be caused by a single, very loud noise such as an explosion (which can make you deaf immediately), or longer exposure to loud noise such as machinery or loud music at work. There is a risk of hearing damage from exposures above 80 dB(A).

The effects of this damage include hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that more than a million workers in Britain are exposed to levels of noise that put their hearing at risk, and that over 17,000 people suffer deafness, tinnitus and other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent and irreversible. It is also 100% preventable. The first symptoms of NIHL are problems hearing conversation in a noisy room (sometimes called 'cocktail party deafness') and tinnitus. Usually, by the time these symptoms are bad enough for you to visit your doctor, the damage cannot be undone and will get worse, even without further exposure to noise.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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