The Effects of Tinnitus in the Workplace
Tinnitus is a common condition and not necessarily one that affects older people, although it is more prevalent in those over fifty.
Sound and silence
The main symptom is a constant ringing in one or both ears which may be a buzzing or a persistent loud thumping sound. Hearing ‘music’ is another experience which may sound like actual background music.
It’s an invisible condition and is not caused by an external source. Only the person affected can hear the noise and it can feel more pronounced in moments of silence. This does not mean that it is imagined.
It can develop over time, or the onset may arise suddenly. The cause may be due to continual exposure to loud noise in a professional career, such as in some types of engineering, in the music or aviation industries, or it may just appear without any apparent cause. Certain medications may bring on an attack.
Carry on working
In a working environment, the impact of tinnitus can be debilitating. Whether working in an office, shop, on a production line or anywhere else, everyday noise levels can cause significant discomfort. Sound sensitivity may become enhanced, creating an adverse effect on work performance. Hearing loss often accompanies tinnitus.
To make matters worse, the condition is not widely recognised. Employees are likely to feel embarrassed or be unwilling to admit to their employer or colleagues that they have a problem, fearing it might affect their job prospects; instead, they struggle trying to hide it. They may start to dread meetings, become unable to follow conversations and constantly strain to hear what is being said; a failure to understand leads to errors being made. A rebuke from employers and colleagues adds to the difficulty, usually causing further embarrassment, even shame. The result is isolation as the person withdraws and starts to be excluded from conversations.
When the symptoms are severe, tinnitus can affect concentration and result in poor memory, anxiety and sleeping problems. Trying to fight these symptoms may lead to a cycle of depression and anxiety which further affect the ability to work. Giving up work or leaving a satisfying job to find alternative employment, is likely to follow yet is usually unnecessary.
Working with constant and prolonged daily noise may be the cause of tinnitus. Employers have a duty of care to protect all staff from such noise by identifying measures that can be implemented to reduce the risk of noise exposure and protect hearing. Simple and inexpensive solutions, such as the issue of ear plugs, the availability of specialised sound therapy products or making reasonable adjustments may be all that is needed and can make a huge difference. For more help, it’s worth booking a Workplace Assessment which will help to identify assistive equipment and technology as well as offer advice on making reasonable adjustments to help staff work more easily and efficiently.
Help from an audiologist
Employees experiencing symptoms of tinnitus can make an appointment with an audiologist or ear specialist who will give more detailed information about any potential long-term harm to hearing and advise on how to lessen the effects.
Taking the first step
Visualise’s holistic workplace assessments can help employees with hearing challenges successfully develop their careers while feeling included and valued as part of the team.
Hearing Loss, Deafness and Tinnitus Needn’t Mean Job Loss, so to find out more about how a Workplace Assessment can make a significant and lasting difference for employees with hearing challenges or to make a referral, visit https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/workplace-assessments/hearing-loss/