Preventing noise-induced hearing loss - Projects and educational resources

Information status

All documents issued prior to 1 July 2017 were issued by the former Department of Commerce. Documents listed here are the latest versions available, but may be subject to review. For more information on this document, please contact online@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

This page lists educational resources which deal with the prevention of noise inducing hearing loss.

Current research projects

Australian Workplace Exposure Survey (AWES) – Hearing Project 2014-2017

Curtin University, WA, University of WA, University of Queensland, National Acoustic Laboratories, NSW                   

This team has been developing and testing a new epidemiological tool to help examine workplace exposures that contribute to occupational hearing loss (www.occideas.org).  In April 2016, they undertook a large national telephone survey to ask workers about their occupations and tasks. The system will then determine how many Australian workers are exposed to harmful levels of noise, hand-arm vibration and ototoxic chemicals.  It will then use this data to estimate the future burden of work-related hearing loss and identify the industry sectors that contribute most.  It will also estimate how changes in the use of hazard controls could alter the burden and the costs. A report on the project is expected in late 2017.

Acute auditory effects associated with solvent and jet fuel exposure

University of Queensland, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

This study is investigating the acute auditory effects associated with solvent and jet fuel exposure.  In addition, it aims to determine a test battery that can be used for monitoring hearing in solvent-exposed workers.  Results are expected by the end of 2017.

National occupational hazard and risk management surveillance (NOHARMS)

Safe Work Australia is investigating exposures to hazards associated with priority work   disorders within priority industries using small, targeted studies for specific industry sub-sectors and hazards. NOHARMS projects include exposure measurements where possible, and workers and managers are asked about risk management practices including the provision and use of controls. The first NOHARMS project, carried out by Curtin University, investigated exposures to noise, dust, vibration and chemicals on small mixed grain and livestock farms in Western Australia.  

HEARsmart Music Venue Study

HEARing Cooperative Research Centre, VIC

This pilot project is working with three Victorian live music venues to develop practical and cost-effective solutions to help reduce noise exposure for musicians, patrons and venue staff while maintaining or even improving the fidelity of the music being played.

Early Indicators of Noise Injury 

National Acoustic Laboratories, NSW

The aims of this project are to determine: i) the relationship between levels of noise exposure and auditory processing difficulties; ii) the influence of musical training in preventing or reducing these difficulties; iii) through electrophysiological techniques, a neurological model of the effects of noise exposure and musical training on auditory processing, and iv) the subjective experiences of those who have trouble hearing in noise.

Research into auditory system mechanisms, tinnitus and hearing in noise

The University of Western Australia, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology and Macquarie University

Evaluation of a hypothesised dose-response relationship of exposure to cigarette smoke, noise and atmospheric contaminants on hearing loss of mine employees.

This research project, just commencing, will explore individual and combined contributions of cigarette smoking, noise and atmospheric contaminants to the development of occupational hearing loss in a retrospective mining cohort, using health surveillance data collected in WA between 1996 and 2013.  

Is there a synergistic ototoxic effect of noise and welding fume?

Edith Cowan University, WA. School of Medical & Health Sciences  

The Occupational Health team is investigating the relationship between noise exposure and welding fumes to determine if welding fumes could be implicated as an ototoxic agent. 

Sound practice project  

The University of Sydney, NSW

This is an ongoing project on OHS issues in orchestras, including NIHL.  It involves the eight main state and national orchestras.

Effects of noise on performance in aircraft cabins

The University of New South Wales

This is an ongoing project originating from concerns about the effects of noise on safety-critical tasks undertaken by those working within an aircraft.  The studies have investigated the effects of noise on various cognitive tasks and have considered the effects on native vs non-native speakers.  The noise levels for these investigations have been in the range between what is considered acceptable for an office and the workplace noise limit.  The noise used has been a wideband noise similar to that within an aircraft cabin during flight.  Recent studies have included babble noise, i.e. non meaningful speech, at the same level.

Contact Dr Brett Molesworth: b.molesworth@unsw.edu.au

Past research projects

Active noise control in workplaces

The University of Western Australia, School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering.

Successful active noise control projects to attenuate low-frequency noise have been carried out in the cabins of a mining truck and a locomotive, in the wheelhouse of a high-speed patrol boat, near a cooling fan in an educational building and to reduce noise emissions from a shoulder-pack vacuum cleaner.

Shhh - Hearing in a farming environment 

Deakin University, VIC, Australian National University, ACT, National Acoustic Laboratories

Two out of three farmers are affected by hearing loss and they are exposed to many different sources of noise on farms. This project tested the hypothesis that participating in early intervention hearing services focused towards farming families will contribute to (a) significant reduction in the impact of hearing loss on farmers and (b) educate and empower farmers on their capacity to reduce their noise exposure. This project has resulted in several publications and in hearing health being embedded in the Sustainable Farm Families program – part of the National Centre for Farmer Health.

Noise Injury Prevention Strategy for the Australian Farming Community

 AgHealth Australia – University of Sydney, NSW, Farmsafe Australia

A number of research reports and articles have been produced by AgHealth contributing to action on this issue, along with facts and pamphlets for farmers and shooters.

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss in Australia: Overcoming barriers to effective noise control and hearing loss prevention

Safe Work Australia, ACT

Educational Projects

Know Your Noise website   

National Acoustic Laboratories, NSW    

Based on research previously carried out by NAL, this website provides accurate and meaningful information about noise exposure and its impact on hearing health. You can find out whether your levels of noise exposure (at work and play) are putting you at risk of hearing damage, and you can take an on-line hearing test to see how well you hear in a noisy background. The comparative data on the site is based on results from over 8,000 people who participated in NAL’s large online survey in 2012. This first campaign under the HEARsmart banner was launched in 2014:  and was driven by the distribution of postcards Australia-wide. There was also a dedicated social media campaign through facebook and twitter @HEARsmart_. The story was also picked up by Channel 9 TV news reaching a huge audience across Australia.

‘Profiles/leisure noise’ project and the NOISE database

National Acoustic Laboratories, NSW

The aim of this project was to develop measurement tool(s) capable of estimating the life-time noise exposure profile typical of the community; and of specific individuals typical of sub-groups of the community. The NOISE database brings together a wide range of leisure noise measurements for researchers and others to explore. It aims to identify which leisure activities and events pose a risk to hearing health and to help estimate individuals' noise exposures. 

‘Hear4Tomorrow”

National Acoustic Laboratories, NSW

This project developed an effective programme for hearing loss prevention and hearing health awareness. The project aims to reduce the prevalence of NIHL in young people by promoting awareness of the dangers of excessive sound exposure and educating primary school students on ways to minimise hazards to hearing health. It has been developed especially for teachers, by a teacher, has been tested in primary schools, and is designed to work with current teaching requirements. 

Using Auditory simulations to enable prevention of noise exposure in school-age children and young adults

Edith Cowan University, WA

Report published in 2010 with Teachers’ and Students’ Notes for the Integrated Science Curriculum Years 11 and 12

‘Sonic Silence’ an interactive science exhibit

Edith Cowan University, WA and Scitech, WA

Exhibit designed to look like an oversized set of headphones, the two listening booths giving people a chance to experience what it is like to have noise-induced hearing loss and learn about preventative measures.  It was installed in 2012 and remains a popular exhibit.

‘Cheers for Ears’ School Program

Ear Science Institute Australia, WA

Targeted at 8 - 12 year old students this program involves a 1-hour interactive education session    delivered in the classroom by ESIA’s health promotion coordinator, using models, simulation of hearing loss, and group exercises. It has also developed a free Android App  to monitor personal music player listening levels and a computer game about the dangers of prolonged exposure to noise.

  • More information - The ESIA also has a ‘Hearing Knowledge Centre’ plus on-line videos.

‘Hear2day’ Noise Awareness Program

Grow Smart Foundation, WA

A noise awareness program targeted at 10-11 year olds to demonstrate effects of playing personal music players at dangerously high volumes over time. The fun, interactive multimedia program message is designed to be delivered through a variety of modes, from school classroom presentations to public community events. 

Managing Noise in the 21st Century - Newspaper Liftout

The West Australian/AIOH

Hearing Awareness Week is an annual event held in August.  Every year between 2011 and 2014  “Managing Noise in the 21st Century” was published as a special 16-page liftout in The West Australian newspaper.

Control Guide – Management of Noise at Work (Safe Work Australia)

 Although published in 1991 this Guide still has much useful information.

Current Regulatory Projects

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the priority disorders under the National Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.

Three states currently have inspection projects focusing on noise.

WorkSafe in Western Australia

WorkSafe in Western Australia is conducting an inspection project during 2015/17 in manufacturing workplaces.  One of the main objectives of the proactive program is to raise awareness of noise hazards and how these may be assessed and subsequently controlled.  During this project whenever inspectors visit a manufacturing workplace for any reason they will also run through a noise control and training checklist and if identified as a potential issue, take the necessary enforcement action. 

WorkSafe Victoria has a NIHL information hub

WorkSafe Victoria has a NIHL information hub on its website. This includes: what noise is; the scientific basis on how hearing loss occurs; practical and easy to understand information on identifying noise in the workplace; and information on higher order noise controls beyond hearing protectors.

WorkSafe's inspectorate will be out in manufacturing industries to assess compliance in workplaces around the state.  Later WorkSafe will focus on NIHL in the construction industry.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is including noise in its present compliance and enforcement intervention programs for the construction, manufacturing and agriculture industries.

International projects on on-line educational resources in relation to preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Safe in Sound Awards (by USA NIOSH /NHCA)

The objectives of these awards are to recognize organizations that document measurable achievements in hearing   loss prevention programs, and to obtain and disseminate information on their real world successes.

Tax Incentive Scheme (by Singapore Ministry of Manpower)

Use of Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Testing in workplaces (by UK Health and Safety Laboratory)

This project is investigating the measurability and reliability of OAE testing in different test environments and the potential for developing a procedure for the inclusion of OAE testing in HCPs, including evaluation of the practicability of training occupational health providers to undertake OAE testing. 

On-line Resources

More for the general public

  • Action on Hearing Loss (from UK – formerly RNID)  An educational and campaign site to encourage people to look after their hearing, including listening to music responsibly. 
  • Dangerous Decibels (from Oregon USA) Includes a virtual exhibition – a collection of games, demonstrations and activities that will answer three important questions:  What are the sources of dangerous sounds? What are the effects of listening to dangerous sounds? How do I protect myself from dangerous sounds?
  • Hear the World An international initiative to educate the public on the importance of hearing.
  • Make Listening Safe Campaign (from the World Health Organization) Launched on 3 March 2015 on World Ear Care Day. Aimed at teenagers and young people, it includes multilingual posters, other educational materials and a report on effects of recreational noise exposure with many useful references. 
  • Personal Music Players & Hearing (from the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) For a good explanations of the hearing process and effects of loud noise see report. And for a choice of 3 levels of detail:

 

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Information
Last updated 29 Jun 2017

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