Report: broadcast employers need to take action to prevent hearing loss

A new study instigated by audio technology company LimitEar has found that a quarter of the UK workforce, including those in broadcast, use headphones for prolonged periods at work – putting them at risk of premature hearing loss. LimitEar MD Stephen Wheatley spoke to SVG Europe about the specific implications for broadcast professionals.

The report found that, on average, workers listen to an average of 110 minutes whilst in the workplace, and a further 92 minutes outside of work hours. In total, an estimated 7.6 million people in the UK are exposing themselves to over 3.5 hours of reproduced sound each day.

Despite the regulations that are in place to protect UK employees, the majority of respondents (79%) are unaware that their employer is legally required to protect them from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). The study also revealed that almost half (48%) of the respondents are concerned about losing their hearing, showing a growing need for employers to protect their staff effectively.

European regulations stipulate that workers should not be exposed to average noise levels of 85dB (equivalent to busy city traffic from kerbside) or above over an eight-hour period. Prolonged exposure to noise above the average limit of 85dB can result in NIHL. For example, when listening to an MP3 player at full volume, this generates 100dB of sound, meaning you should only listen to it for a maximum of fifteen minutes or risk hearing damage.

Stephen Wheatley, managing director of LimitEar, told SVG Europe: “With the use of headphones in the workplace representing a significant risk to our hearing, those working in broadcast find themselves at greater risk than your average office worker. Large numbers of people in the broadcast industry wear headphones or earpieces occupationally all day, often for eight hours or more.

“Working in high ambient noise environments, such as a stadium or live event, presents an even greater risk as the background noise will often be high. In order to hear clearly, the reproduced sound must be 4-8db louder than the ambient noise, which can then expose the user to a sound dose which, according to the EU regulations, will only be safe for 10 minutes or so.

“Employers in the broadcast environment need to take steps to ensure their staff is protected because ultimately they are liable. This can be addressed through the use of technology, but first we need to raise awareness of the issue.”

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