Are headsets causing you harm?

By Kylie Baracz
Thursday, 22 November, 2012

Before delving into this article, take a look at the headsets or headphones you are using. Do they have a peak noise level of 123 dBA, fit comfortably on your head and/or ears, and meet Australian Standard AS/ACIF S004?

Headsets used in control centres and used with radios may be causing hearing injuries from hazardous noise, such as acoustic shock. They are capable of delivering wide bandwidth sound at a level that is a risk to hearing health.

To avoid this, workers need to make sure they aren’t exposed to noise that exceeds the Australian Exposure Standards. In practical terms, a handsaw or blender of 85 dB can cause hearing loss after prolonged exposure, whereas a one-off rocket launch at 180 dB can cause death of hearing tissue.

variety of headsets

These days there are many headsets available that have safety features included, such as noise cancellation, passive/active noise reduction and acoustic shock protection, to minimise the likelihood of injuries such as tinnitus or hearing loss.

According to AudioClinic, around 18% of Australians suffer from tinnitus at some stage of their lives. Although it can be short-term, like after a concert or using noisy equipment, it can also last a long time if workers are exposed to loud sounds regularly.

WorkCover NSW has released a code of practice to help managers and workers understand and minimise the chances of receiving injury as a result of hazardous noise. The document covers managing excessive noise in the workplace, the details of acoustic shock and what causes it, and how to check if headsets comply with OHS guidelines.

Along with the code of practice, audiometric testing can be used to monitor the hearing health of employees. It is recommended that this should be done within three months of a worker starting, and every two years after that. Seeking advice from an experienced audiologist may be also useful.

For more information on the code of practice and the Australian Exposure Standards, please visit the WorkCover NSW website.

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