Redefining Noise Monitoring in the Workplace
Updated: Oct 7
Introducing certainty and eliminating costly guesswork
NIHL and Occupational Noise: The Facts
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a permanent and disabling condition. In the UK alone, it affects two million workers. Globally, a staggering 1.1 billion people are estimated to have the condition, with 16% of disabling hearing loss worldwide being attributed to exposure to occupational noise. Workers in industries such as manufacturing, mining, and construction are at particularly high risk of experiencing NIHL, but every industry has workers who are exposed to potentially unsafe levels of sound at work.
To put the scale of NIHL into perspective, consider measuring the impact that hearing loss has on an individual, a community, or on society in general in years lost to ill health, disability, or early death. This international standard is called the Disability-Adjusted Life Year, and when it comes to hearing loss, current data estimates that over 4 million DALYs can be attributed to over-exposure to occupational noise.
In sum: nearly one-fifth of the world’s population stands to lose a combined 4 Million years of life (or quality of life) as a direct result of exposure to unsafe levels of sound in the workplace.
Nearly one-fifth of the world’s population stands to lose a combined 4 million years of life (or quality of life) as a direct result of exposure to unsafe levels of sound in the workplace.
In light of the scale and impact of NIHL, it’s critical for teams and organisations to take meaningful steps towards better risk management with regards to noise in the workplace. By implementing dynamic, effective solutions that are purpose-built to meaningfully reduce the risk from exposure to unsafe levels of sound, teams will immediately start to gain a better understanding of their risk environment with regards to noise, and ultimately drive better outcomes for their workers, and their business.
Risk Management with Regards to Noise at Work: The Current Landscape
The risk assessment for any workplace risk - including noise - is the very foundation upon which teams and organisations must build plans, processes, and programmes designed to create safer, healthier workplaces. Without a reliable, accurate picture of their risk environment, teams are left to guesstimate when it comes to critical questions, like whether a given worker is being exposed to a potentially dangerous level of risk, or which areas of a job site require special attention. Put simply: The quality and reliability of a risk assessment has a direct impact on the effectiveness of any resulting health or safety measures.
Traditional risk assessments: averages and estimates (and consequences)
Historically, risk assessments for noise in the workplace are conducted by specialist “noise assessors.” These professionals will visit the workplace and determine the average levels of noise in a given environment, and offer an estimate of the personal daily noise exposure of employees. Following the assessment, they will offer recommendations and information regarding controls, hearing protection programmes, health surveillance, and PPE.
For decades, this type of risk assessment has been the standard throughout industries like construction and manufacturing. Yet workers in these same industries continue to experience the highest risk of occupational-related NIHL. This is, in part, because the current ‘solutions’ recommended to teams following a traditional noise assessment fall well short of arming them with the information, insight, and context they need to confidently move forward and take action. While averages and estimates are a good place to start, the reality is that uncertainty is the enemy of effective risk management: These limited windows into actual workplace conditions and worker habits aren’t nearly reliable or accurate enough to provide a solid foundation for more effective risk management.
For decades, traditional risk assessments have been the standard throughout industries like construction and manufacturing. Yet workers in these same industries continue to experience the highest risk of occupational-related NIHL.
The economic and social costs of NIHL
This point is further demonstrated by a significant rise in NIHL-related claims against employers in the last decade, resulting in colossal costs to insurers, which have been estimated to reach £70 million per year in the UK. But even these impressive figures pale in comparison to the overall impact of hearing loss on the economy, which has been estimated at an absolutely astonishing £25 billion in the UK alone.
This impact is, in no small part, due to the ways in which hearing loss can diminish an individual’s ability to contribute to society. Notably, hearing loss has been identified as a major contributing factor to dementia, with even moderate hearing loss increasing the risk of dementia by up to three times. Further, hearing loss can result in other serious or debilitating health issues, including communication difficulties, social isolation, depression, reduced quality of life, and loss of independence and mobility. These conditions have a direct impact on a person’s ability to work and contribute meaningfully to society, and can profoundly impact not only their own earning potential or quality of life, but that of the friends, family, and communities who bear the cost and emotional burdens of caring for them.
Remarkably, these burdens are shouldered for a condition that is 100% preventable. In fact, “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is the most common preventable occupational health condition in the world.”
“Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is the most common preventable occupational health condition in the world.”
In light of the ongoing, but unnecessary level of risk to which workers are exposed with regards to NIHL, it’s clear that a step-change is required to usher workers, teams, and organisations towards an evolution in risk management with regards to their noise environment.
Modern Noise Monitoring Solutions: Taking Control of Your Risk Environment
Where traditional noise assessments fall short in terms of accuracy and reliability (and ultimately, effectiveness), modern noise monitoring solutions represent a clear opportunity for teams to mitigate uncertainty, and take better control of their risk environment with regards to noise.
Unlike traditional noise assessments, which only provide a snapshot of your noise environment, an effective modern solution provides ongoing, real-time, personalised data that individual workers, managers, and teams can use to make better decisions every day. This results in improved health outcomes for workers, improved ways of working for teams, and better economic forecasts for organisations and communities.
The modern worksite is in constant motion. The dynamic, demanding nature of working environments within sectors such as construction, manufacturing, or mining demand solutions that are agile, accurate, and reliable. Moreover, they demand solutions that take a proactive approach to risk management, not a reactive one. And when it comes to NIHL - a completely avoidable, but irreversible condition - the necessity of a prevention-focussed approach becomes even more important.
Smart Alert: a solution as agile as your work environment
Smart Alert by Minuendo is a purpose-built solution for better sound monitoring in the workplace. Lightweight and easy to use, it was created to fully prevent exposure to unsafe levels of sound by alerting workers, in real-time, to unsafe conditions. With automatic notifications and actionable guidance on exposure, Smart Alert provides teams with drilled-down insights and critical context in an approachable interface that’s proven to drive better working habits.
Using cutting-edge, industry-defining technology, Smart Alert continuously measures a workers’ exposure to noise from inside the ear. This means that the noise being measured by Smart Alert is the actual noise that someone is being exposed to, and not simply a measure of ambient or background noise. This is a critical distinction between the Smart Alert methodology and traditional noise assessments: by measuring how much noise a worker is actually exposed to, instead of estimating personal exposure based on a calculation of the average amount of ambient noise that exists in a workplace, Smart Alert is able to capture the most meaningful data available: the data from within the wearer’s ear.
But Smart Alert doesn’t just capture the most reliable, most accurate, most relevant data available, it also transforms it into actionable intelligence that managers and teams can use to drive better ways of working, and better health outcomes for workers.
The data collected by Smart Alert is stored and processed in an ultra-secure Cloud environment, where it’s automatically analysed and visualised in an attractive, dashboard-style format. Teams can think of their dashboards as their Noise Command Centre: with the information available at their fingertips, they can easily and quickly identify problem areas and hotspots, patterns and trends, and more. Armed with this information, safety managers or duty holders can take swift, decisive action to improve or implement controls, reevaluate their resource allocation or ways of working, or take steps to ensure that their PPE is functioning properly, and being used appropriately.
The Smart Alert Difference
The Smart Alert difference is, in a word: certainty.
Certainty that your noise monitoring solution is capturing the right data at the right time; and certainty that you have the information necessary to make informed - not arbitrary - decisions with regards to the health and safety of your workforce.
With certainty, comes confidence, and also comfort. Smart Alert provides teams with peace of mind. This comes from knowing that you’re taking an approach to risk management that’s based on accurate, real-time, personalised data, and not on averages or estimates with limited application in a dynamic working environment.
Even more importantly is the confidence that Smart Alert instills in workers themselves. By empowering individuals with the ability to easily self-manage risk in the workplace, modern risk management technology is changing the occupational health and safety landscape. By placing the power to take meaningful action directly into the hands of workers, these solutions are refocusing critical information where it’s most effective: on the ground, and in the hands of the people who are most impacted by negative health outcomes.
By placing the power to take meaningful action directly into the hands of workers, Smart Alert is refocusing critical information where it’s most effective: on the ground, and in the hands of the people who are most impacted by negative health outcomes.
NIHL - unlike other occupational health conditions - is 100% preventable. But preventing NIHL requires a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to risk management that must go beyond bare regulatory compliance, and be driven by a commitment to revolutionising hearing conservation throughout your teams, and your business.
The best way to discover how Smart Alert can evolve your approach to noise monitoring and drive better outcomes for your workforce is to see it in action. To schedule your personal online demo, just choose a time slot that works for you on this calendar. And if you’d like to chat with us to learn more about Smart Alert before you book your demo, feel free to contact us using these details.