World Hearing Awareness Day is March 3 each year, a day to raise public awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss as well as proper ear and hearing care. It shouldn’t be a shock to hear that the automotive dealership is a high-risk environment for occupational hearing loss, according to Michigan State University research.
The service repair shop is obviously of primary concern, closely followed by the autobody or collision repair department. Hearing loss isn’t restricted to staff in these areas, though – it’s a hazard that everyone in the dealership should be aware of. Every staff member should know where the dangers are and tools to protect their hearing.
Why Preventing Hearing Loss is Important
Hearing is one of the five senses that provide data for perception. If you aren’t properly protected, you can easily sustain hearing damage, which is irreversible and permanent. There are the obvious concerns with hearing impairment such as difficulty holding a conversation and a feeling of isolation, but other social problems are associated with a decreased ability to hear.
Health risks of hearing loss in adults can include higher rates of depression, fatigue, impaired memory, and social withdrawal. All of these risks are detrimental to functioning in the automotive work environment.
Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss
Enforcing the use of hearing protecting at a car dealership is difficult at best; almost impossible, actually. However, maintain their ability to hear should still be encouraged. These three tips can help.
Measure Noise Levels
In every area of the dealership, measure the noise level in decibels. It’s an easy task with a smartphone using the Sound Level Meter App provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It’s a free app for Apple devices in the App Store and can provide peak levels as well as averages noise levels.
Ensure you’re testing during normal hours of operation to get true readings, and test regularly. For any area that has sustained volume of 85 dB or higher over an eight-hour period, hearing protection should be worn.
Identify Zones with Dangerous Sound Levels
NIOSH requires that areas that routinely equal or exceed 85 dB are posted with warning signs to use hearing protection. Those signs are often overlooked because they’re installed dutifully rather than an intent to prevent hearing loss.
Consider a creative way to identify areas that require hearing protection. Whether it’s a graphic or a slogan like, “Hearing protection is easy, Hearing is priceless,” or “Life is worth listening to, wear hearing protection”.
As well, on employee orientations, encourage new hires to wear hearing protection as you pass through loud ‘danger zones’.
Provide Convenient Hearing Protection
Make it convenient to protect hearing in the dealership. Salespeople walking through the repair shop or detail department, for example, might not want to take the time to put in disposable expandable earplugs. But if over-the-ear hearing protection is available just outside the zone, it’s more apt to be used. Keep equipment clean and offer several options – in-ear, over-the-ear, and the corded buds.
Maintaining good hearing helps everyone communicate better, both at work and at home. It helps eliminate mistakes from misheard conversations that could be costly at the dealership. Hearing awareness day is March 3rd, but hearing health has a place in everyday dealership life.
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