Hearing plays an essential role in communication, speech and language development, and learning.  An estimated 17% of adults aged 20–69 years have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise.

NIHL can result from damage to structures and/or nerve fibres in the inner ear that respond to sound.  This type of hearing loss is usually caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds and cannot be medically or surgically corrected.  It can result from a one-time exposure to a very loud sound, blast, or impulse, or from listening to loud sounds over an extended period.

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds is preventable.  To reduce their risk of NIHL, it is important to identify potential sources of loud sounds (such as gas-powered lawnmowers, snowmobiles, power tools, gunfire, or music) that can contribute to hearing loss and try to reduce exposure.  Where it is not possible to avoid exposure to such sounds altogether, behaviours should be adopted to protect hearing, such as time-limiting exposure to excessively loud sounds, distancing oneself from the source of the sounds, or using hearing protection devices such as earplugs or ear defenders.


Even a small amount of hearing loss can have significant, negative effects on speech, language comprehension, and communication.  After a long period of being exposed to loud noise over time, you may slowly start to lose your hearing.  Because the damage from noise exposure is usually gradual, it can go unnoticed until the effects become more pronounced.  Over time, sounds may become distorted or muffled and people often have difficulty in understanding speech.  Loud noise exposure can also cause tinnitus.

In order to protect your workers from developing NIHL, a noise assessment of your workplace should be carried out by someone suitably qualified to do so.  The assessor can determine the likelihood that your employee will exceed the safe daily ‘dose’ for noise exposure and, if required, a full hearing conservation programme can be drawn up to assist you in managing the risks, and reduce the likelihood of litigation later on.

At Hawkins, our qualified team of acoustics engineers have the tools and knowledge to provide you with a full noise at work assessment along with recommendations for meeting the legislative requirements related to keeping your workers safe from harm caused by noise.  In the case where damage has already occurred and you are facing litigation, we are able to look at historical assessments to determine whether or not the worker’s vibration exposure was the likely cause of their injury. 

Contact us to learn more.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  Effects of Hearing Loss on Development.  Rockville, MD: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.  Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; August 2008.

Alberti PW (February 1992).  "Noise-induced hearing loss".  BMJ.  304 (6826): 522.  vdoi:10.1136/bmj.304.6826.522. PMC 1881413. PMID 1559054.