Headphone Usage in the Workplace Puts Millions at Risk of Premature Hearing Loss

79% of employees unaware that their employer has legal requirement to help protect against Noise Induced Hearing loss

A quarter of the UK workforce, including those working in Broadcast, use headphones for prolonged periods at work putting them at increased risk of noise induced hearing loss, according to a study by audio technology company, LimitEar. Workers listen to an average of 110 minutes whilst in the workplace, and a further 92 minutes outside of work hours.

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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 being 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.

The research results come from a survey of 2,000 UK employees – commissioned by LimitEar – looking into the awareness of the European regulations, headphone usage and attitudes towards their hearing health.

Stephen Wheatley, Managing Director at LimitEar, commented: “This research is representative of Britain’s workforce generally but hundreds of thousands of employees – such as call centre workers and emergency services – are required to use headphones occupationally so are significantly more at risk of NIHL. As headphone usage in the workplace increases, employers need to ensure their staff is protected because ultimately, the employers 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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Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at Action on Hearing Loss, added: “We’re extremely concerned by these findings - and question how loudly people are listening to their headphones for such long periods of time. It’s crucial that employers take responsibility for noise levels at work and put practical steps in place to ensure that employees’ hearing is protected. Hearing loss must start being considered as the serious health issue it is. It can impact relationships with friends, family, staying in employment and has even been linked with other conditions like dementia. The damage to your hearing caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise is irreversible, but it can be easily prevented.”

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 Noise Induced Hearing Loss. 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.

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LimitEar is a UK-based company specialising in audio technologies that protect headphone and earpiece users from serious irreversible conditions, such as Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). LimitEar patented Hearing Dose Management (HDM) technology can be integrated into any headset, headphones or earpieces, to help prevent NIHL by ensuring that the average level the user is experiencing does not exceed safe levels.

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