In a busy workplace, it is easy to overlook a potential danger that could have long-term consequences: hearing loss.

At WellForWork, we understand the importance of keeping your hearing intact for a fulfilling and healthy life. That is why we are here to guide you on how to prevent hearing loss in the workplace, ensuring you stay safe and productive.

By implementing the right safety measures and fostering a culture of awareness, you can significantly reduce the risk of hearing damage. In this article, we will explore the best practices and techniques that will help strengthen your defence against workplace noise.

From selecting and using appropriate hearing protection devices to understanding your legal rights and responsibilities, we will cover all the essentials. Your ears deserve our attention, and by taking the necessary precautions, you can safeguard your hearing for years to come.

Join us as we delve into a deep dive into hearing protection and provide you with practical tips to keep your hearing healthy in the workplace.

Let us take control of our auditory well-being together.

The Importance of Hearing Health in the Workplace

In New Zealand, numerous workers face daily exposure to harmful noise levels, jeopardizing their auditory well-being. Neglecting hearing conservation can lead to irreversible consequences, impacting both individuals and the broader society.

Impacts of Excessive Noise

Excessive noise exposure can result in a spectrum of hearing-related issues, from temporary and permanent hearing loss to bothersome conditions like tinnitus and heightened sound sensitivity (hyperacusis). These conditions affect communication, productivity, and overall quality of life.

Employer Responsibility for Safe Environments

Employers carry a dual responsibility, both legal and ethical, to ensure a secure work environment, which includes proactive measures to prevent hearing loss. Prioritizing hearing health not only safeguards employees but also reduces absenteeism and fosters a positive workplace culture.

New Zealand’s Regulatory Framework

To address this growing concern, New Zealand has implemented regulations and guidelines aimed at securing the safety and well-being of workers exposed to noisy environments. These regulations delineate the roles of both employers and employees and set clear standards for noise exposure limits, hearing protection, and monitoring.

Creating a Safer Workplace Together

Recognizing the significance of hearing health and adhering to pertinent regulations empowers us to establish a workplace that is not only safer but also healthier for everyone involved.

By understanding the importance of hearing health and complying with relevant regulations, we can create a safer and healthier workplace for all.

Preventing Hearing Loss: Understanding Its Causes

Hearing loss can manifest gradually or suddenly, resulting from factors like age, genetics, medical conditions, or exposure to loud noise. Occupational noise-induced hearing loss stands out as a preventable form, demanding a thorough exploration of its root causes.

The Impact of Noise on Hearing

Excessive noise can harm delicate inner ear hair cells, leading to hearing deterioration over time. The extent of hearing loss is determined by the intensity and duration of noise exposure. Specific industries, such as construction, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and entertainment, pose higher risks due to consistent exposure to loud machinery and tools. Identifying potential hazards and implementing safeguards is paramount for safeguarding workers in these environments.

Occupational Noise and its Burden

Recognized experts concur that prolonged exposure to noise below 70 dB LAEQ seldom affects long-term hearing. The World Health Organization backs this, stating that even up to 75 dB LAEQ heritage over extended periods rarely causes hearing impairment [WHO]. In New Zealand, about 25% of workers face harmful noise, a concern with a worldwide impact. Globally, around 180 million individuals currently deal with noise-induced hearing loss from work-related noise.

Unraveling Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

A significant facet is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), a result of prolonged exposure to loud sounds. This impairment triggers reduced hearing and tinnitus, particularly affecting higher frequencies. Equally affecting both genders, NIHL intensifies with higher sound pressure levels and prolonged exposure, emerging as a leading global cause of disability.

Beyond Auditory Effects

Noise exposure unveils non-auditory health repercussions, encompassing annoyance, accidents, and productivity dips. These give rise to secondary issues such as sleep disturbances and psychological stress, influenced by noise intensity, type, duration, and individual factors.

Complex Challenges of Hearing Impairment

Even lower noise levels can significantly impact individuals, especially when coupled with age, pre-existing hearing issues, or overall health conditions. Even mild hearing impairment poses hurdles in speech comprehension, amplified when noise interferes. This becomes more taxing for those with hearing difficulties, adding cognitive strain to the listening experience.

Workplace Regulations and Guidelines for Hearing Protection

To prevent hearing loss, it is crucial to understand the varied risks of noise-induced hearing loss across industries like construction and manufacturing. This understanding lays the foundation for effective preventative measures in workplaces.

Industry-Specific Hazards: Protecting the Workforce

Diverse industries harbour varying risks tied to noise-induced hearing loss. Construction workers contend with the clamour of hammering, drilling, and heavy machinery. Manufacturing plants echo with conveyor belts, compressors, and assembly lines. Agricultural operations involve noisy machinery like tractors, chainsaws, and grain dryers. Meanwhile, the entertainment sector—home to musicians, sound engineers, and production crews—faces prolonged exposure to amplified music and loudspeakers. Safeguarding these workers demands a comprehensive noise assessment to pinpoint concerns and introduce fitting control tactics.

Creating Safe Environments: New Zealand’s Regulatory Framework

New Zealand’s commitment to workplace safety is exemplified by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and its related regulations and standards. These guidelines furnish a structure for hazard and risk management, noise exposure included. Employers must gauge and manage noise levels, furnish appropriate hearing protection equipment, and employ engineering solutions to mitigate noise. Additionally, they must train staff in hearing safety practices, regularly monitor noise levels, and uphold records of exposure and control.


audiology assessments - hearing loss testing

Shared Responsibility: Employee Engagement

Employees, too, play a pivotal role. Adhering to instructions on hearing protection devices, promptly reporting noise exposure concerns, and actively engaging in training and awareness initiatives are key responsibilities. This collective commitment empowers employers and employees to foster safe and healthful workspaces prioritizing hearing preservation.

Identifying and Tackling Industry-Specific Hazards

Understanding and tackling occupational noise-induced hearing loss risks across industries is a vital first step in creating safer workplaces. By recognizing the unique noise-related challenges various sectors face, employers can tailor their efforts to implement effective preventative strategies.

Construction Noise Challenges: Tools and Machinery

The construction industry is rife with activities like hammering, drilling, and heavy machinery operations that emit substantial noise. Recognizing and addressing these challenges can lead to targeted interventions and protection for workers.

Manufacturing Plant Noise: Processes and Equipment

Manufacturing plants buzz with equipment like conveyor belts, compressors, and assembly lines, contributing to elevated noise levels. Implementing measures to mitigate these noise sources can significantly enhance the well-being of employees.

Agricultural Machinery Noise: Risks in the Field

In the agricultural sector, machinery such as tractors, chainsaws, and grain dryers generate hazardous noise levels. Identifying these sources of risk and applying relevant safeguards is essential for ensuring the health and safety of workers.

Entertainment Industry Noise Exposure: Amplified Risks

Professionals in the entertainment industry, including musicians, sound engineers, and production crews, are exposed to amplified music and loudspeakers. Recognizing the potential risks and implementing protective measures can help preserve the hearing health of these workers.

Regulatory Compliance: New Zealand’s Approach

New Zealand’s regulatory framework, encompassing the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and associated guidelines, offers a systematic approach to managing noise-related hazards. Understanding these regulations is pivotal for organizations striving to create safe and compliant workplaces.

Employer Responsibilities: Assess, Protect, Educate

Employers bear the responsibility of assessing workplace noise levels, implementing protective measures, and educating employees about hearing protection. Comprehending the nuances of these responsibilities ensures effective risk management.

Employee Engagement: Vital Role in Protection

Employees play an active role in their hearing protection journey. Following guidelines for hearing protection equipment, reporting concerns, and participating in training are instrumental in maintaining a safe work environment.

Collaborative Efforts: Fostering a Culture of Safety

Creating a culture of safety requires collaboration between employers and employees. By aligning efforts and prioritizing hearing protection, workplaces can become safer and healthier environments for all.

Employers Responsibilities

Ensuring Workplace Safety

Employers bear the crucial responsibility of establishing a safe work environment. In line with this obligation, you are required, within reasonable practicality, to ensure that both your employees and visitors to your workplace are not exposed to noise levels that match or exceed certain thresholds. These thresholds include noise levels equivalent to 85 decibels over 8 hours or peak noise levels surpassing 140 decibels. This mandate holds even when your workers are using hearing protection. An indicative sign that noise levels might be hazardous is when employees need to raise their voices to converse with someone merely 1 meter away. When uncertain about the potential harm posed by noise levels, seek assistance from a competent individual—someone equipped with the requisite knowledge, skills, and experience—to conduct a thorough noise assessment.

Managing Noise: The Quest for Elimination

In the pursuit of noise management, your primary goal should be the elimination of noise sources. This involves identifying and eradicating the origins of noise, which might entail relocating noisy machinery or opting for quieter equipment alternatives. In cases where total elimination is not feasible, the focus shifts to minimizing noise-related risks. Several strategies can be adopted to achieve this goal:

  • Isolating noisy machinery from the work area
  • Installing barriers to obstruct noise propagation.
  • Incorporating silencers or noise-insulated equipment
  • Managing workers’ exposure time in noisy zones through task or shift rotation

By adhering to these responsibilities, employers create an environment that prioritizes both the well-being and safety of their workforce, demonstrating a commitment to noise control and employee protection.


Choosing the Right Hearing Protection Devices

Choosing the appropriate hearing protection devices is paramount for effective noise reduction and employee comfort. Various options are available, each with its unique attributes and limitations.

Earmuffs: Effective Noise Barriers

Earmuffs are a favoured choice in high-noise industries. They cover the entire ear, providing substantial noise reduction. Earmuffs offer comfort during extended wear and are easily shareable among workers. However, they may not be ideal for individuals wearing glasses or other headgear.

Earplugs: Portable and Efficient

Earplugs, small inserts for the ear canal, come in various shapes and materials like foam, silicone, and wax. They are portable, cost-effective, and offer high noise reduction when correctly fitted. Proper insertion is crucial for a secure fit and optimal protection.

Specialized Devices for Unique Needs

Certain situations demand specialized hearing protection devices. Musicians and sound engineers, for instance, require earplugs with noise-reducing filters that preserve sound quality. Custom-molded earplugs are an option for those with specific hearing protection requirements.

Considerations for Selection

When choosing hearing protection devices, factors like the noise reduction rating (NRR), comfort, compatibility with other personal protective equipment (PPE), ease of use, and maintenance should be weighed. Consulting experts or conducting trials and evaluations can aid in identifying the most suitable options for your workplace.

Proper Usage and Maintenance of Hearing Protection Equipment

Selecting the right hearing protection devices is just the beginning. Ensuring their proper usage and maintenance is equally crucial for their effectiveness and durability.

Training for Correct Usage

Employees must receive comprehensive training on the correct insertion and wearing of hearing protection devices. This training should emphasize the significance of a proper fit and adherence to manufacturer instructions for each device type. It should also stress the importance of consistently and continuously using hearing protection in noisy environments.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

Routine inspection and maintenance of hearing protection equipment are vital for optimal performance. Earmuffs should be regularly checked for wear or damage, such as cracks or worn-out cushions. Earplugs should be replaced as needed, especially if they become soiled or lose their shape. Following manufacturer guidelines for cleaning will ensure hygiene and extend the lifespan of the devices.

Effective Storage Solutions

Employers should provide suitable storage solutions for hearing protection devices, such as clean, dry containers or cases. Encouraging employees to take ownership of their hearing protection equipment and facilitating easy access to replacements fosters a culture of safety and accountability.

Training Employees on Hearing Protection and Awareness

Effective workplace training and education are pivotal in preventing hearing loss at work. Equipping employees with knowledge and awareness empowers them to take an active role in safeguarding their hearing.

Understanding Hearing Loss and Hazards

Training programs should delve into the fundamentals of hearing loss, its causes, and the potential repercussions of neglecting hearing protection. Employees need to learn how to recognize hazardous noise levels, comprehend noise exposure limits, and identify signs of hearing damage.

Proper Usage and Maintenance

A key focus of training should be the correct use and upkeep of hearing protection devices. Employees should grasp the selection process for the right device, understand proper fitting techniques, and know how to maintain ongoing effectiveness.

WellForWork: Your Training Partner

WellForWork, with its expertise and resources, can be a valuable asset in delivering comprehensive hearing protection training. By integrating WellForWork into training programs, employers ensure that employees receive high-quality education and guidance, reinforcing a culture of hearing safety within the workplace.

Encouraging Reporting and Communication

Raising awareness about the importance of reporting noise-related concerns is vital. Fostering open communication channels empowers employees to voice their worries, facilitating ongoing improvements in hearing protection and nurturing a culture of continuous enhancement.

Conducting Regular Audiology Assessments

Regular audiology assessments are fundamental to a comprehensive hearing protection initiative. These evaluations serve as vital tools for identifying early signs of hearing loss and who may benefit from additional support or intervention.

Establishing Baselines Assessment

A baseline audiology assessment is conducted at the onset of employment to establish a reference point for subsequent screenings. Follow-up assessments enable the tracking of changes in hearing sensitivity, facilitating early detection of potential issues.

Audiology assessment should be carried out by qualified professionals, employing calibrated equipment within a controlled environment. Thorough documentation and periodic reviews of results help uncover any emerging trends or patterns that may warrant further investigation or intervention.

WellForWork: Your Partner in Audiology Assessments

WellForWork, with its expertise and state-of-the-art resources, can play a pivotal role in conducting and managing these screenings. By incorporating WellForWork into workplace health and safety programs, employers ensure ongoing monitoring of employees’ hearing health, reinforcing a proactive approach to auditory well-being. This partnership ensures that appropriate measures are promptly implemented when needed, further safeguarding employees’ hearing health.

Creating a Culture of Hearing Health and Safety in the Workplace

Preventing hearing loss necessitates more than regulatory compliance and the provision of protective equipment; it demands the establishment of a pervasive culture of hearing health and safety.

Leading by Example

Employers should take the lead in demonstrating a steadfast commitment to hearing protection. This involves consistent enforcement of hearing protection device usage, allocation of resources for training and awareness initiatives, and active involvement of employees in decision-making processes.

Open Communication Channels

Establishing regular communication and feedback mechanisms encourages employees to share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions regarding hearing protection. Recognizing and rewarding individuals or teams contributing to a safe and healthy workplace reinforces the significance of hearing health.

Integration with Health and Wellness Initiatives

Promoting a culture of hearing health and safety extends to integrating hearing protection into broader health and wellness programs. Employers can disseminate hearing health information through newsletters, host workshops or seminars on hearing conservation, and provide self-education resources.

WellForWork: Shaping the Culture

WellForWork is well-equipped to assist organizations in cultivating a culture of hearing health and safety. By partnering with WellForWork, employers gain valuable support in creating a workplace culture that prioritizes hearing safety, ensuring the well-being of employees.

EAR PROTECTION REQUIED - Audiology and noise control

Hearing Conservation Program

Establish a robust hearing conservation program with a primary objective of safeguarding workers’ auditory health over the long term. Prioritize measures that aim to either eliminate noise at its origin or in cases where complete elimination is not feasible, substantially reduce noise hazards to a reasonable extent. Ensure the implementation of stringent processes to monitor the usage and effectiveness of the control measures you have instituted among your workforce. Regularly assess and analyze your work operations to pinpoint, evaluate, and manage potential noise-related risks. Continuously evaluate the efficacy of your procedures—are they still optimal, or can quieter alternatives achieve equivalent outcomes? Your commitment to a comprehensive hearing conservation program is pivotal for ensuring the well-being of your employees’ hearing faculties.


  1. Walk through the survey.
  2. Noise measurements (by a competent person who is trained in carrying out noise assessments).
  3. The report will help in identifying.
  • Where are the high noise areas (noise map)
  • Is it continuous or intermittent?
  • Level of noise in dBAs
  • Is it time/task dependent?
  • How many staff members are exposed?

Collaborating with a consultant

  1. Select an Acoustic consultant.
  2. Would be able to help.
  • Noise control measures
  • Help implement simple and cost-effective solutions.
  • Noise Exposure Index (NEI)
  • The highest risk is addressed first.
  • Administrative controls
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Implementing the chosen noise control

  1. Hierarchy of control
  2. May need to re-design equipment.
  3. instal noise barriers
  4. Modifications/ maintenance
  5. Worker training:
  • Impact of high noise on their health
  • Update policy and procedures
  • How to implement the changes
  • How to use PPE

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring Program

When setting up a monitoring program:

  1. Exposure monitoring: Noise measurement is to be done by an occupational hygienist.
  2. Involve your workers in the decisions about monitoring. Establish a culture in your work for workers to give feedback.
  3. Review the characteristics of your workplace (e.g., size, number of workers, equipment used).
  4. Talk to an expert to see if hearing tests for workers are needed to identify early signs of hearing loss. Your workers must give consent before they participate in any hearing tests.

Audiology Assessment

These are performed to identify any changes in their hearing.

Who is Responsible for Audiology Assessments?

Health monitoring should be conducted by an individual with appropriate expertise. This individual should possess the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct the monitoring and interpret the outcomes effectively. When it comes to Audiology Assessments, it is advisable to consult with a proficient healthcare professional, such as an occupational health nurse, occupational physician, or audiologist, who is well-versed in this area.

Why should you do health monitoring?

The purpose of health monitoring is to:

  1. Make sure that the health of workers is not being harmed from exposure to hazardous noise while conducting work.
  2. Detect early signs of noise-induced hearing loss.
  3. Help treat and protect workers who have been exposed to hazardous noise levels.

Evaluate your programme to make sure it is successful.

Schedule noise assessments at regular intervals (every 3 to 5 years) or following any changes to your equipment or processes that may increase the risk of your workers being exposed to hazardous noise levels. For example, you may need a detailed noise assessment if:

  1. You get new equipment.
  2. A change in the speed of the machine creates excess noise or vibration.
  3. Workers increase their hours and are exposed to the noise source for longer.
  4. A change to the layout or structure of the building increases noise levels.

You will need to get a competent person to measure noise levels.

  1. Keep records of your detailed noise assessments for at least 10 years.
  2. Review your control measures to see if controls at source are prioritised over less effective controls such as hearing protection. An effective way to do this is to check how much has been budgeted and spent on noise assessments compared to buying, maintaining, and replacing hearing protection.
  3. Identify any changes you need to make to equipment, processes, or control measures.

Conclusion: Protecting your ears at the workplace

Protecting your ears at the workplace is not just a matter of compliance; it’s a crucial aspect of maintaining your overall health and well-being. In New Zealand, where occupational noise-induced hearing loss is a significant concern, taking proactive steps to prevent hearing loss is essential.

By understanding the causes and risks of hearing loss, complying with workplace regulations, and using appropriate hearing protection devices, you can safeguard your hearing for years to come. Training and educating employees, conducting regular screenings, and fostering a culture of hearing health will further strengthen your defence against workplace noise.

At WellForWork, we are committed to promoting hearing health and safety in the workplace. We believe that everyone deserves to work in an environment that protects their hearing and enables them to thrive. Join us in taking control of our auditory well-being and creating a safer and healthier future for all.

Let’s protect our ears and preserve our ability to enjoy the sounds of life.

Preliminary Noise Survey Checklist

Here’s an example of a Preliminary Noise Survey Checklist sourced from WorkSafe, which you can reference for your noise assessment needs.

Preliminary Noise Survey Checklist - Protecting your ears at the workplace
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