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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 04:50 GMT
Loud music 'risks staff hearing'
Music in clubs can hit 110 decibels - the same as a jet taking off
Staff in bars, pubs and clubs face permanent hearing loss because they are being bombarded by ear-splitting music, says a report.

In some cases staff are being subjected to music as loud as an aeroplane taking off, according to the TUC and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

They want more protection for the UK's 500,000 bar and club workers.

TUC Deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said simple steps, such as ear plugs, would go a long way to help.

'Noise overload'

Other ways to protect hearing included giving staff proper breaks in noise-free areas and regularly reviewing the layout of venues.

Ms O'Grady said: "Employers can take simple steps to reduce the damage being done to staff without turning clubs into libraries.

110 decibels - plane taking off
110db - noisy nightclub
90db - loud pub
70db - city street
50db - normal conversation
"But it is up to local authorities to monitor and enforce the rules put in place to protect employees from noise overload."

At the moment employers must act if staff are exposed to noise levels above 80 decibels on a daily basis - some clubs were found to be reaching 110 decibels.

Clubbing boom

But campaigners say local authorities are not doing enough to monitor noise levels and implement the regulations.

Tighter European Union rules are due to be brought in, but will not apply to the leisure industry until 2008.

Mark Hoda of the RNID said: "Because noise damage is cumulative and the effects not immediate, employers often fail to enforce hearing protection for their staff."

Currently around 170,000 people suffer deafness or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.

Over the past 20 years a boom in clubbing has increased premature deafness in young people, according to previous research.

Many experience ringing in the ears and dullness of hearing after a night out - a warning sign of irreparable hearing damage.

For most this disappears after 24 hours but repeated exposure to loud music can cause tinnitus - a permanent ringing sound in the ears - as well as other forms of hearing loss.

We asked for your views and anecdotes. Here are a selection.

I work in a theatre which often has very noisy rock bands. The staff who must work in the auditorium during these shows often find the noise level deeply unpleasant, even though they are offered simple foam earplugs. The noise affects not only the ears - it seems to pulse through the thorax. Although the legal level is not normally exceeded, I believe that the legal level should be set at a lower decibelage in order to make it safer for everyone. There should be more spot checks from inspectors, and venues should be fined if they exceed the legal level.
Valerie Twiss, Milton Keynes

I have worked in a nightclub for four years, first as bar staff, now as door staff. I also work for the police, and in a recent hearing test for a sideways-promotion to the 999 call centre, I found that my hearing levels are indeed decreasing in sensitivity out of sync with an average person of the same age (23 years old). This is not a particular problem at the moment, but it is something I will now have to have reviewed more often in my day job to be able to keep this position. This will definitely impact on jobs I go for later on in my career.
Allison, Southsea, Portsmouth

Get a life - let people choose themselves what they want to listen to, however loud it is. We're not in a nanny state yet.
Sarah, Douglas, Isle of Man

As a student I frequently worked behind the bar to supplement my income, and now I have been told that due to the excessive noise I was exposed to for nearly three and a half years I have permanent bells in my ears which will never go away. Ear plugs are not the answer for all bar staff though as it completely blocks out the stuff we need to hear.. like the drinks being ordered. It should be accepted that if your going to work in a noisy venue, your going to suffer later in life. The nightclubs should be more responsible, but they aren't really going to regulate themselves when profits are so high.
Rebecca Halliwell, Coventry, West Midlands

I used to work for a big club on Brighton seafront and the problems which could occur if you did not wear the ear-protection provided were clearly described. I had to sign a contract to say I had read and understood the problems. From then it was my responsibility, but the management would not tolerate you not sticking to the rules. Ear protection is available to customers of the club also. It's just a case of making people aware of the risks.
Kirsty Green, Brighton, UK

Did you ever see a warning in a nightclub that the loud music could damage your hearing? I suspect that the only good thing to come from our ever increasing "blame and claim" culture, is that nightclubs will be forced to turn down the volume once they've settled a few claims for loss of hearing.
Jon, Swindon

Pipedown (which campaigns for freedom from piped music) is delighted the TUC is now aware of the problems of people who have to work in premises filled with very loud music. We are campaigning on this issue right now. It applies to people working in shops as well as bars, for music that is less loud but very repetitive - such as Jingle Bells, repeated up to 300 times before Christmas - can cause real psychological stress,
Nigel Rodgers, Salisbury, England


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