Latest posts by Dr. Chris Lawson (see all)
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Around 30 million individuals are subjected to dangerous noise in the workplace, according to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Known as noise-induced hearing loss, it has for more than 25 years been one of the most commonly experienced occupational health issues in the US.
If you are subjected to sound at 85 decibels for eight hours on a regular basis, according to hearing specialists, this is enough to cause hearing loss. And worryingly, the louder the sound, the less you need to be exposed to it before damage occurs.
Which occupations are most at risk?
The obvious candidates for hearing loss are those who work in construction and the entertainment industry, and jobs which involve riding a motorcycle, such as a motorcycle courier.
Professional musicians must be particularly wary. An average rock concert can reach up to 120 dB in volume, hazardous for the musicians and audience members alike. Those who work in agriculture are also at risk. Although farming may not seem like a prime job for hearing loss, working with large machinery on a daily basis makes it one of the noisiest jobs around. And any elementary school teacher will happily tell you that 30 screaming kids is not the most relaxing sound around.
Lastly, anyone who takes the train or subway to work could also be at risk. This is because people tend to raise the volume of their music on their smartphones in these situations to compensate for the din of the train carriage, and the people chatting around them.
How do I know I have been affected?
Too much loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear over a period of time. It might seem that the other nerve endings make up for the initial loss of high-frequency hearing, but the damage is ultimately too severe and begins to affect the rest of the frequencies if left untreated.
Some of the clues that your workplace has affected your hearing health include ringing in your ears after work, and a feeling that your ears are plugged. You may be able to hear people when they are talking, but the exact words they’re saying might not be understood fully. As the early signs of hearing loss are often in the higher frequencies, children and women’s voices may also be harder to understand.
How do I protect my hearing at work?
Prevention is the best way to deal with hearing loss associated with noise. It is essential to identify the dangers, consume smartphone content at a safe volume and ensure that the ears are protected from noise, whether at work or at work or at play. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from noise-induced hearing loss:
- Take action, if necessary, to stop the noise at source. Ensure that all equipment in the workplace is well maintained. You might need to move the noisiest offenders further away to prevent damaging noise reaching your ears.
- Ask you employer for high-quality ear protection (at no cost to you) if you work in a profession that routinely reaches noise levels of 85db or over. Ear protection can be useful for preventing long-term hearing damage when used properly.
- When wearing hearing protection, it is essential to be disciplined. OSHA inspectors often report that employees using hearing protection have been observed leaving one earplug out so they can keep talking to their colleagues. It goes without saying that having both earplugs in during times of high noise is the only effective way to protect yourself.
- Be careful to keep track of the volume of your earbuds if you listen to music while working. Noise-cancelling headphones are a great way for you to reduce your hearing volume. You can also take advantage of settings present on most phones, which prevents you to listening above a certain volume. Make sure to take a break from your hearing and let your ears rest.
We are experts in hearing protection, having learned through protecting people in the military from the loud sounds they might encounter in the course of their duty. We offer custom hearing protection as well as fully comprehensive hearing evaluations. Contact us today for a consultation.