Occupational Hearing HazardsApril 16, 2021
Did you know that an estimated 22 million American workers face dangerously loud noise every year? These noises can damage hearing and cause permanent hearing loss. Whether you’re a law enforcement officer, a musician, a construction worker, or an air traffic controller on the tarmac, your job could be hurting your ears. Once you have hearing loss it can’t be restored. Noise induced hearing loss is preventable, so find out more about your occupational hearing hazards!
Is Your Workplace Too Loud?
Next time you’re at work, think about the sounds you hear throughout the day. Are sounds extremely loud? Do they hurt your ears? Do you ever need to shout to have a conversation with someone standing nearby? These are all signs it’s far too loud, and you and your co-workers are risking your hearing health. Other signs that your workplace is too noisy include:
- Yelling to speak to someone standing 3 feet away.
- Hearing ringing or buzzing in your ears when you’re done for the day.
- Having temporary hearing loss when you leave work.
- Feeling as though all the sounds around you are muffled, or coming from far away.
- Having a hard time hearing conversations.
These are just some signs that your workplace is too loud. If you want to find out exactly how loud your workplace really is, you can download a free decibel reader on your phone and find out just how loud the sounds around you are. Any sounds over 85 decibels can hurt your ears and lead to hearing loss.
Common Sites of Hearing Hazards
Several professions are noisier than most. Construction is at the top of the list. Construction workers often spend all day working with and around heavy machinery on extremely loud sites. Other professionals facing occupational hearing hazards include police officers, farmers, factory workers, musicians, bar tenders, and anyone working at a sports venue. These are only some of the noisy work sites around the country.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has clear standards for how loud a workplace can be. They define an unsafe workplace as having noise exposure above 85 decibels for 8 hours. If sounds are louder than 85 decibels, the safe listening time is reduced.
Your employer should do their part to minimize risk. This could be through using quieter machinery, isolating the source of the noise so that workers can be further away, and limiting worker exposure to loud noise.
If you are working in a noisy environment and exposed to dangerous noise levels, your employer is responsible for providing you with appropriate safety equipment and training. This must include adequate and safe hearing protection.
What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss?
If you’re exposed to loud noises every day at work, you have a high risk of noise induced hearing loss. Your inner ears are full of sensitive cells that help you hear. Loud noise can easily damage these cells. Once damaged, the cells don’t send signals to the brain, and you’ll experience permanent hearing loss.
One of the first signs of hearing loss is having a hard time hearing conversations. You will have difficulty understanding the words being said, and you’ll start asking people to repeat themselves. You’ll also have a harder time hearing high-pitched sounds, or very soft sounds.
Protecting Your Hearing
Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. Once the cells in your ear are damaged, they cannot be restored. That’s why it’s so important to find out more about your occupational hearing hazards and make sure you’re protecting your hearing.
Ear plugs are a great way to protect your ears from moderately loud noises. Both foam and wax earplugs can protect your ears if you wear them correctly. Do you face extremely loud noise every day, such as emergency sirens, airplane traffic, or heavy machinery? Earmuffs offer better hearing protection for very loud noise. They provide a seal around your entire ear and prevent dangerously loud sounds from damaging your ears.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you have noise induced hearing loss, treat your hearing loss as soon as possible. Hearing aids will help you hear on the job and in your personal life. They cannot restore your hearing to normal, but they will help you hear the sounds you’ve been missing.