Sound experts at Echo Barrier, a company which provides noise management solutions across a number of industries, have identified 10 occupations where noise poses a serious health problem.
Top of the list is the airport ground staff who direct jet engines in landing and take-off and are subjected to noise levels of up to 140 decibels (dB), more than 1000 times the sound energy at the noisiest of music events. Close behind are Formula One Drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, who, when seated in the cockpit right in front of the engine deal with noise levels reaching 135 dB.
At number three are construction workers, who are exposed to noise all day long on building sites around the UK. The loudest tool used is the hammer drill which registers an ear-shattering 120dB.
Peter Wilson, technical director at Echo Barrier, said the research, carried out ahead of International Noise Awareness Day, should help raise awareness among the general public of the issue of noise and the risks it poses. He said: “Working for years in a noisy job significantly increases the risk of serious hearing difficulties. “Workers can lessen the risk by protecting ears with earplugs or other hearing protection devices at all times but employers need to be aware of how damaging noise pollution can be – and not just for their employees.
“Noise pollution can also have a devastating effect on people who come into contact with a noisy place of work – such as a building site. It can cause headaches, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.
“As a company, we provide acoustic barriers which significantly lessen the impact of such noise pollution on the local community.”
According to the list of noisy jobs, those who work in the music industry suffer. Barmen work long shifts in venues where noise levels can reach 115dB and musicians – including famous singers and band members – can be exposed to around 110dB on stage during concerts and rehearsals. Coldplay singer Chris Martin, Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas and Embrace’s Danny McNamara have all admitted their hearing has suffered as a result.
Later this year, the trio will feature on an album, I Am the One in Ten, which aims to raise awareness about tinnitus, a hearing condition which affects 10% of the population. Classical musicians who are exposed to noise levels of up to 95dB also complain about this condition, which causes buzzing or ringing in the ears. Music is also found to be an excessive daily noise for those who listen to earphones on their journey to or from work.
Often the volume is turned up to dangerous levels to be heard over the rumble of the train, bus or car. Other noisy jobs identified include motorbike couriers, factory workers and farm hands, with pig feeding found to expose farm workers to a squealing noise of 105dB. Nursery workers and music teachers can also suffer the effects of excessive noise – up to 85dB – a noise level which could cause damage to the inner ear – if exposed to over a prolonged period of time. Figures from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work suggest occupational deafness caused by exposure to high noise levels at work is one of the most prevalent forms of ill-health in the United Kingdom.
It estimates that over two million people in the UK are regularly exposed to loud noise at work and about 1.1 million are exposed to levels above 85 dB, where there is a significant risk to health. Two thirds of Europeans – 450 million people – are exposed every day to noise levels that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says are unacceptable.
International Noise Awareness Day is being held on 24th April 2013. It is being supported by Echo Barrier which aims to reduce the impact of noise pollution using sound barriers on construction sites, road works and at big events. For more information visit www. echobarrier.com or find Echo Barrier on Twitter @echobarrier.
NOISY JOBS – the top ten 1. Airport ground staff – 140dB Staff who direct jet engines in landing and take-off and are subjected to 140 decibels (db) of sound in one go. You might have noticed their brightly coloured ear muffs. These are not a fashion accessory but a very necessary piece of safety equipment.
2. Formula One Drivers – 135dB Drivers seated in the cockpit right in front of the engine deal with noise levels reaching as high as 135 dB.
3. Construction workers – 120dB We all know how painfully loud building sites can be. Imagine working on one! Construction workers are exposed to noise all day long. The loudest tool is identified as the hammer drill which registers an ear-shattering 120dB.
4. Nightclub workers – 115dB Bouncers stood outside a club are safe from too much noise but barmen working long shifts can be subjected to noise levels of up to 115dB
5. Rock stars – 110dB Some of our favourite bands and singers are exposed to around 110db on stage during concerts and rehearsals. Among those who have been affected are Noel Gallagher, who suffers from tinnitus, Coldplay singer Chris Martin, Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas and Embrace’s Danny McNamara.
6. Factory and farm workers – 105dB People who work with loud machinery often suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus. Farm workers also have to deal with excessive animal noise. Feeding the pigs has been found to expose farm workers to a squealing noise of 105dB.
7. Commuter music –85dB It’s not strictly a job, but for many it is part and parcel of their commute into work. But listening to music on headphones while travelling can be hazardous for hearing. Often the volume is turned up to dangerous levels to be heard over the rumble of the tube, train, bus or car, reaching 85dB.
8. Classical musicians – 95dB Studies have shown that classical musicians are exposed to noise levels during performances and rehearsals of up to 95db. The loudest classical instrument is the flute.
9. Motorcycle courier – 90dB Riding a motorcycle at 50mph exposes the driver’s ears to 90db of noise under the helmet.
10. Nursery worker or teacher – 85dB A class of 30 children can be exceptionally noisy. Nursery workers and teachers could potentially suffer the effects of excessive noise – up to 85dB – which, with continued and prolonged exposure, can cause damage to the inner ear.