According to the CDC, chronic hearing loss is a big problem among adults. It’s the third most common chronic physical condition that affects U.S. adults after hypertension and arthritis. The CDC reports that about 24% of hearing loss among adult workers is due to occupational exposure. Learn more about hearing loss and protection to protect your ears on and off the job.
How Is Hearing Loss Defined?
Hearing loss is an inability to hear sound. Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and can impact one or both ears. Although many forms of hearing loss are due to aging, head trauma, genetics or disease, noise exposure is another common cause of hearing loss, especially in younger adults. Occupational hearing loss is a serious concern because about 22 million adults are exposed to hazardous noise each year. Hazardous noise is defined as loud noise over 85 decibels or higher. Another 10 million workers are exposed to ototoxic chemicals each year. These chemicals make the ear more susceptible to lose hearing and can include solvents, mercury and other metallic compounds, carbon monoxide and some pharmaceuticals.
Which Occupations Are More Susceptible To Hearing Loss?
Your occupation determines the level of noise you’re exposed to. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following industries as the most common for occupational hearing loss:
- Equipment Manufacturing
- Food manufacturing
- Fabricated metal or wood manufacturing
- Machinery manufacturing
Farmers are also at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Ambulance drivers, airline workers and maintenance crews can also experience occupational hearing loss, depending on their work environment. Even teachers can experience hearing loss from exposure to slamming lockers, loud announcements, ringing bells and general noises around the school.
How To Prevent Occupational Hearing Loss?
Most people don’t go around measuring the decibels of the noises around them. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice to speak to someone three feet away from you, the noise level is probably over 85 decibels. If you are experiencing a ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work, you may have been exposed to problematic noises in the workplace. Some people experience headaches after work. You may even notice that you don’t hear as well as you once did.
OSHA requires employers to implement a conservation program in workplaces where workers are regularly exposed to loud noises that could be damaging. Employees should get a baseline audiogram when they begin working in a place that is excessively noisy. Following that baseline exam, employees should be provided an annual audiogram at no charge to measure if there is any damage to the hearing. Employees should also be trained on hearing and ear protection options. Both the training and hearing protection options should be provided by the employer.
Hearing Loss Can Be Devastating
The earlier adults act on potential occupational hearing loss, the more that can be done to prevent future damage. HEAR Center offers free consultations and free hearing screenings to help you learn more about hearing loss and damage to your ears.
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