Crew Health Advice: Limiting hearing loss
Hearing defects have consistently featured as a cause of PEME failures, and currently account for 11% of the Club's PEME unfitness statistics. The Club has noted the largest group of seafarers who are affected by abnormal audiometry results work in engine rooms.
Typically, crew with poor audiometry results also display signs of mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss. Seafarers working in engine rooms have a higher tendency to experience hearing disabilities. This is especially true for crew who do not use precautionary measures.
High levels of ambient noise, typically above 85 dBA cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL.) The negative effects of such level of noise and higher, depend upon individual physiology and the duration of exposure.
Identification and limitation of hearing damage
Audiometric testing is included as part of the UK Club PEME examination. It is the only diagnostic evaluation relevant to indicate noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The screening is performed by an audiometric testing machine within a sound proof booth, which provides an accurate measures of any damage. The following features are essential for a robust hearing conservation program:
- A baseline audiometry test to be performed within six months of exposure for all seafarers. The test should ideally be performed when the seafarer has not been exposed to hazardous noise for at least 14 hours.
- Seafarers exposed to higher noise levels may be required to attend training on the effects of loud noises on hearing, the purpose of audiometric testing and protective devices available to mitigate the effects of noise damage.
- As exposure to loud noises, such as in engine rooms, is unavoidable on ship, hearing protection within these areas is mandatory. Devices for hearing protection including earplugs or earmuffs can be easily sourced and used onboard. The most effective ear protection is the ear protector.
- Allow breaks for seafarers between each episode of exposure to loud noise (more than 85dB) especially when sound levels are higher and prolonged.
The full Crew Health Advice bulletin is available for download below.