A new report from Statistics Canada says excessive workplace noise can contribute to elevated blood pressure, sleep disturbance, stress, noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and other negative health conditions.
More than 11 million Canadians (43 per cent), aged 19-79, worked in noisy environments in 2012 and 2013, or had done so in the past. On the job, they had to speak in raised voices to be heard by someone standing an arm’s length away. That is indicative of a hazardous-noise level equivalent to at least 85 decibels, the equivalent of a snow blower. Experts agree that continued exposure to noise above that level, over time, will cause hearing loss.
More men (7.7 million) than women (3.3 million) have experienced noisy workplaces.
For women, younger ages (19 to 39 years) and a lower level of education were associated with a history of work in noisy environments.
Workplace noise remains a hazard. From 2006 to 2015, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board accepted almost 30,000 noise-induced hearing loss claims.
The World Health Organization estimates annual global costs of $105 billion from loss of productivity, premature retirement and unemployment among people with hearing loss.
Notably, women were more likely than men to identify loud music and people as a source of workplace noise. In some circumstances, this workplace noise is not only intentional, but also desirable. Marketers, retailers, restaurateurs and other service providers have long been aware that they can attract or repel particular types of clientele and influence their behaviour through the volume, tempo and selection of music. Venues that wish to attract a young clientele likely also want to hire younger workers, who may then be exposed to hazardous noise without the benefit of hearing protection. Wait staff, for example, often do not use hearing protection in noisy work environments.