Although noise has a particular resonance with wellbeing, especially with regard to the oft-heard house alarm going off in the small hours of the morning, it is less well-represented in the health spectrum.

Excessive noise can cause temporary or permanent damage to hearing. Temporary deafness is often experienced after leaving a noisy place such as a music concert or a place where large machinery is operated. Many road-works feature large generators, and operators can regularly be seen operating hand-held machines that emit significant noise. Regular exposure to such noise could cause permanent damage, and although hearing may recover within a few hours this should not be ignored as it may be a symptom of more serious damage.

Hearing loss is usually gradual due to prolonged exposure to noise. It may only be when damage caused by noise over the years combines with normal hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become. Exposure to noise may also cause tinnitus, which is a sensation of noises (such as ringing or buzzing) in the ears. This can occur in combination with hearing loss.

In terms of noise in the workplace, Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amended) Regulations 2007 sets down the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from the health risks associated with noise.

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