Increase in Hearing Loss in Oil and Gas Drilling Sector

Data Show Increase in Hearing Loss in Oil and Gas Drilling Sector

The most recent data from a safety organization indicates more oil and gas drill workers are losing their hearing despite more safety education and use of ear protection. This shows its more important that ever if you are involved in those industries – or any industry with intermittent or constant loud noise – to get your hearing checked regularly at a Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center.

Hearing test data

According to WorkSafe BC hearing test data, noise induced hearing loss in the industries has gone up over the past five years and more than half of the affected workers are under the age of 35. Using data collected by employers, the agency reports that in 2012, 33% of workers tested had some sort of career-related hearing loss and in 2017, the percentage of workers showing job related hearing loss was up to 45%. At the same time, the percentage of workers using ear protection actually rose from 94 to 98%. Contrast this with other “noisy” work industries which, according to 2017 data, showed only 13% of workers were showing noise-induced hearing loss.

WorkSafe occupational audiologist Sasha Brown surmised an evaluation of the data showed individuals were not using ear protection properly. “It does seem counterintuitive that people are wearing hearing protection and still getting hearing loss.”
WorkSafe regulations mandate employers in oil and gas drilling sectors provide yearly hearing tests for employees and give the results to the agency.

Wear protection correctly

Employees in noisy industries always need to wear hearing protection properly and wear it to preserve their hearing. Brown said she visited gas and oil rigs and noticed workers using the foam earplugs, but not inserting them correctly.
When properly inserted – you should not see the earplugs.

The decibel levels of oil and gas drills is extremely high and ear plugs must be correctly inserted to muffle the noise. Foam earplugs should be squished down and rolled, and you need to pull your ear up and back to open the ear canal area, so the plugs will sit snuggly inside the ear. The earplugs also come in different sizes and if they are too big or too small, they are ineffective. Sometimes, according to the safety agency, the noise is so loud earplugs AND over the ear ear muffs should be worn. Earplugs can also get worn and misshapen and they should be replaced as often as needed. They need to be worn for the duration of the noise exposure, according to WorkSafe.

Employer recommendations

WorkSafe suggests employers take these additional measures to help combat noise induced hearing loss.

  • Make sure all workers at risk in a noisy environment are wearing properly fitted hearing protection.
  • Make sure workers wear the protection BEFORE entering the noisy environment and continue to wear them until they exit the area.
  • Rotate workers to different areas of the manufacturing facility so they spend less time exposed to noise.
  • Identify controls to reduce noise exposure
  • Continue testing workers and making sure they are aware of their test results.

One sharp noise can cause hearing loss, but so can prolonged periods of medium noise levels with no respite. If you leave work and several hours after you leave you still have ringing or humming in your ears, or hearing loss, you are in need of ear protection at your job site. Noise induced work related hearing loss can creep up on you, so it is important to get regular hearing tests done by a professional at a Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center.

Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center can help with custom ear protection if you find you just can’t wear earplugs, or they don’t reduce the noise sufficiently that you can safely work. We can show you how to properly insert and/or use ear protection for work or if you participate in a noisy hobby such as trap shooting.

The first step to protecting your hearing is getting a hearing test. Remember, hearing evaluations are free at our Kansas locations! We understand you need to work, but you only get one set of ears and you need to keep them healthy.