Young Workers Love Wearing Headphones...Except At Work

Walk past a youth today and you can almost guarantee that they have a set of headphones in their ears. Whether they are listening to a book on the bus, exercising to the newest hit song or listing to a podcast at lunch, the newest generation of workers are always using headphones. But while they may like to use them during their own time, young workers do not like using proper hearing protection at work.


WorkSafeBC collected data from over 160,000 hearing tests and found that one in five young workers is not wearing the proper hearing protection. What’s more startling is that while twelve percent of all workers reported not wearing hearing protection, that percentage rose to nineteen percent for workers aged twenty-one or under.


It’s an immaturity to the overall long-term effects of prolonged high volumes,” says consultant with Kasa Consulting in Calgary, Cameron Mitchell. “The attitude is: ‘It’s not affecting me now, so why is it a big deal if I’m not wearing my hearing protection?



Brad Witt, director of hearing conservation at Honeywell Safety Products in Smithfield, R.I. says that jobs like construction are some of the worst places where hearing loss could occur. “Construction is almost the worst-case scenario as far as hearing conservation,” says Witt. “It’s situations with lots of intermittent noise. It’s not like you work in a factory and put on hearing protection first thing and leave it on all day. In construction, it’s in and out and in and out, and you might be doing something quiet but the contractor next to you suddenly starts up something loud. It’s a very difficult environment as far as hearing protection.”


So why are younger workers against wearing hearing protection? Witt feels that it may be “illusion of invincibility”.


That young worker who walks in the door kind of thinking that they’re Superman almost,” he says. “They just don’t feel they are personally susceptible to noise damage. And it’s really a fantasy attitude and it comes across in comments like, ‘I’m used to the noise,’ ‘It’s not really that bad,’ ‘It doesn’t really bother me that much,’ but those are all just fallacies.”


What can be done? This is the choice of the workplace. Some techniques that should be avoided is pushing new safety equipment at them or barking orders at them. Younger generations work better by being mentored or showing them proof of what could happen. Here are a few different techniques that you could implement to help your younger workers wear hearing protection:


RECOGNITION PROGRAM: Reward employees that regularly wear proper hearing protection. Prizes such as gift cards can entice employees to work harder at remembering.


ONLINE APPS: There are several different websites and apps that can do tests to get a sense of any possible damage to a person’s ears. Having employees test try these sites out could give them more information.


HEADPHONE DESIGN: If your company uses larger headphones that sit on-top of your head, allowing your employees to design or draw on their own headphones could make them feel better about wearing them, as they now will suit their own personality.




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