Nursery school teachers wearing hearing protection

The noise in some Danish daycare institutions is so loud that the teachers must wear hearing protection.

The noise from screaming kids in nursery schools is a significant problem for many nursery school teachers. They risk tinnitus and hearing loss. Growing numbers of teachers respond by wearing custom molded hearing protection at work.

The entire staff in one nursery school in Northern Jutland has received hearing protection to be used in peak noise situations when many children are congregated in one room as is common in winter, or when the kids take off or put on their winter clothes when coming in from our getting ready to go outside.

"The noise causes us to become irritable, scold the kids, and tire. The hearing protection serves as a preventive measure against hearing injuries developing in 10-15 years,” explained Karin Vestergaard, a workplace environment employee at the nursery school to the Børn & Unge trade publication.

Hearing protection is one of several preventive measures taken at the school. Noise absorbing ceiling tiles have been installed, chair legs have been tipped with felt pads, plastic containers have been replaced with woven baskets, and a noise meter has been installed, warning about dangerous noise levels with green, yellow and red warning lights.

A stop-gap solution

Anne-Dot Hertel, who works with custom moulded hearing protection, sees a trend toward increased sales of this type of hearing protection.

”Four years ago, few teachers purchased hearing protection, but now sales are increasing. Inquiries from teachers have become more frequent, and we receive requests from institutions about once a week.”

Hertel sees hearing protection as just a part of the solution. Other measures are called for in the schools.

”I am dumbfounded when I see a new daycare institution without any thought given to proper acoustics. Walls and floors are constructed with hard surfaces, and many children are gathered in small spaces,” she said.

Teachers most exposed group

A study conducted in 2005 by Denmark's National Center for Work Environment Research found that teachers feel strongly affected by work noise. 80 percent of teachers in daycare institutions reported that they are exposed to loud noise for about one quarter of their workday. No other group reports a higher exposure to work noise.

Source: Børn & Unge 01/2008 and Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø, Denmark

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