What is Tinnitus and how is it caused?
Posted 17th September 2018
When working in and around the construction, manufacturing, engineering and other noisy industries, or for businesses based in a factory or warehouse it is very common for workers to experience Tinnitus and assume it is a direct result of exposure to excessive noise.
Tinnitus is the term given to the sensation of hearing a sound in the absence of any external noise.
Symptoms of Tinnitus for an individual include hearing different types of sound, for example, ringing, whooshing, humming or buzzing in the ear. These can be continuous, or intermittent.
The Tinnitus may also seem like it’s in one or both ears, in the middle of the head or even be difficult to locate.
Whilst it is not known the exact answer to what causes Tinnitus, it is known that it is not a disease or an illness.
When we hear, sound travels into the ear and then the hearing nerves take the signals to the brain. The brain is then responsible for putting it all together and making sense of the sound.
The ears don’t know what’s important and what’s not, so they send lots of information to the brain. This is too much information for us to process, so the brain filters out a lot of noise and background sound, such as clocks ticking, computers humming or traffic noise.
Hearing loss or ear infections can affect the amount of information being sent to the brain. It then responds to this change in levels by trying to get more information from the ear, and the extra information you may get is the sound we call Tinnitus.
The Tinnitus is therefore actually brain activity and not the ear itself! It is generally accepted that it isn’t only a change in the ear that can result in the condition, but it could be due to a change in our stress levels.
Workers often say that they are aware of noises in the ears when they have a cold, an ear infection or when wax is blocking the ear. Sometimes people become aware of Tinnitus following a stressful event and once they’re aware of it, seem to notice it more and more, but this usually fades once these things have passed.
However, some people continue to notice Tinnitus, for example after an infection has cleared up. This is when workers need to report the condition.
By law, employers have a duty of care to their workforce and ensure all Occupational Noise levels are adhered to.
There are a number of Tinnitus preventions that can be adopted:
Frequent, prolonged exposure to loud noise increases the risk of getting Tinnitus, or of making it worse, so take care to avoid very loud sounds, or protect your ears against them by wearing appropriate ear protectors for your environment.
Regular Occupational Noise Assessments are also key. Contact Euro Environmental to arrange for an employee assessment on 0870 7019170 or visit the website: https://bit.ly/2NFR9EM