According to new research by Curtin University, one in five Australian working men experienced noise levels about the recommended occupational limit on their most recent working day.
The research was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and was co-authored by researchers from The University of Western Australia, Monash University, National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney, The Arctic University of Norway, and University of Montreal.
Published in the Occupational and Environment Medicine Journal, the research included almost 5000 Australian respondents, reviewing how many of them were exposed to workplace noise and chemicals that have the potential to damage their hearing.
The lead author of the study was Kate Lewkowski, an audiologist from the School of Public Health at Curtin University.
Mrs Lewkowski said half a billion people around the world had suffered from hearing loss and this continues to be the leading cause of disability in Australia.
She went on state that hearing loss can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life and can lead to social isolation and affect their mental health as well.
Researchers found that men were more likely to be exposed to excessive noise and workplace exposure to toxic chemicals compared to women. She said this finding is likely due to the gender employment patterns in industries such as construction. Lewkowski went on to explain,
“The findings also show that four out of five workers who exceeded the full noise exposure limit were also likely to be exposed to at least one ototoxic chemical in the workplace. This is an important finding as it demonstrates that most of those who work in hazardous noise environments may have an additional risk of hearing loss due to exposure to these chemicals.”
Another alarming finding of the study which surveyed 5000 Australian workers, was that younger men with trade qualifications who work outside major cities are at a higher risk of being exposed to excessive workplace noise levels.
Co-author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Lin Fritschi, also from Curtin’s School of Public Health, said although current regulations are in place to reduce workplace noise, high levels of noise are still present in many Australian workplaces.
“Our findings have important implications for the Australian workforce and immediate action is needed to reduce the future burden of hearing loss,”
“It is critical for strategies to be developed to reduce workplace noise and chemical exposure, especially in industries like construction where high levels of exposure currently exists.” Professor Fritschi said.