While some employers are certainly doing their part to try to mitigate the risk of tinnitus for their employees, it’s hard to say if they’re genuinely doing enough. Tinnitus is a complex condition to protect against because there are so many potential causes and triggers. Some employers might provide hearing protection devices or offer regular hearing tests, but these measures may not be enough to prevent tinnitus in all cases.
While there may not be an easy answer when it comes to protecting their team against tinnitus, employers should ensure that they are aware of the risks and are taking steps to minimize them as much as possible.
Is Tinnitus a Serious Workplace Issue?
Tinnitus can certainly be a serious issue for those who suffer from it. The condition can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety and can even lead to depression. It can also make it difficult to concentrate and focus on work tasks. In severe cases, tinnitus can be debilitating and make it impossible to continue working.
As an employer, you should be aware that the condition can result in absences from the workplace, high attrition levels, and the potential for a compensation claim to be made against the company.
As an employee, you should be aware of your right to sue your employer for tinnitus compensation if it can be shown that they have been negligent in providing you with a safe workplace environment.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical condition that results in a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. It can be caused by exposure to loud noise, earwax build-up, and other health conditions.
What Are The Symptoms of Tinnitus?
Most often than not, tinnitus results in a ringing sensation in the ears, even though there is no external sound to cause it. However, suffers of tinnitus can also experience the following symptoms –
Types of Tinnitus
There are two types of tinnitus, subjective and pulsatile.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of the condition, and it’s called subjective because only the person experiencing the symptoms can hear them. The type of noise they hear can be in both ears or just one, and it can go from a low roar right up to a high squeal.
For some people, tinnitus is a constant presence, while it might come and go for others. The volume also varies from quiet background noise to being so loud that it can cause real problems with concentration and sleeping.
This second type of tinnitus is much less common, with the symptoms being a rhymic sound that is pulsing or whooshing. The sound can also seem as if it is in time with the person’s heartbeat.
With pulsatile tinnitus, your doctor may also be able to hear the tinnitus when they carry out an examination.
Can Tinnitus Be Cured?
There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. These include –
This involves using either white or pink noise to help mask the tinnitus and make it less noticeable. White noise is described as a continuous hissing sound, like the noise you would hear from a radio that’s not tuned into a station. Pink noise is similar but with a lower pitch. It’s often described as sounding like waves crashing on a beach.
Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating for some people resulting in anxiety and depression. In these cases, counseling can help to ease these feelings and provide support.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This type of therapy can help change how you think about and react to tinnitus. It can help you to manage your stress levels more effectively and provide you with techniques to help you relax.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
TRT is a form of sound therapy that uses a combination of low-level white noise and counseling to help retrain your brain to ignore the tinnitus.
There is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture can help to ease the symptoms of tinnitus, although more research is needed.
What Can Employers do to Reduce the Risk of Tinnitus?
Although tinnitus can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life, many employers are not doing enough to protect their employees from this condition. In some cases, employers may not even be aware of the risks of tinnitus.
There are a number of steps that employers can take to help protect their employees from tinnitus. For example, they can provide information about the condition and its causes and implement measures to reduce exposure to loud noise.
Some of the specific measures that employers can take to protect their employees from tinnitus include:
- Ensuring that all employees are aware of the risks of tinnitus and how to protect themselves from it
- Providing earplugs or other forms of hearing protection for employees who are exposed to loud noise
- Creating a policy on the use of personal listening devices such as MP3 players and iPods
- Regularly maintaining workplace machinery and ensuring that any potential sources of excessive noise are repaired or replaced.
- Monitoring noise levels in the workplace and taking action to reduce them if necessary
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, and this includes protecting them from tinnitus. By taking the steps outlined above, employers can help to reduce the risk of their employees developing this condition.