When you think of on-the-job injury, hearing loss probably wouldn’t be the first one to come to mind. As an invisible condition, hearing loss is often overlooked. In the US, hearing loss is the third most common medical condition, affecting 20% of the population.
A new study has revealed that nearly 13% of US workers suffer from hearing loss. Learn more about on-the-job hearing loss and steps you can take to protect yourself in your workplace.
Study: One in Eight Workers in the US Has a Hearing Loss
A new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that 1 in 8 workers experiences some degree of hearing loss. It is unclear whether this hearing loss is created by conditions on the job, but the CDC does note higher incidents of hearing loss in specific industries.
For example, 17% of miners experience some form of hearing impairment, with the mining industry as the highest in exposure rate to noise (76%). The second loudest occupation is construction, with 16% of workers experiencing some degree of hearing loss. Approximately 14% of people in manufacturing suffer from hearing loss.
In these loud professions, it is crucial to take steps to protect one’s hearing. Dr. Darius Kohan, chief of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC and one of the authors of the study, says, “Employees who utilize ear protection in noisy environments, such as firemen, policemen, ambulance workers, had the lowest prevalence of hearing loss – demonstrating how proper noise protection can be achieved with minimal effort.”
This study first appeared in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality weekly report (2016).
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of hearing loss, along with presbycusis (age-related) hearing loss. Unlike age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss can happen to anyone at any age and occurs due to an accumulation of exposure to loud sounds.
For people who work in particularly loud industries, noise-induced hearing loss is a major concern, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). They report that “22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Last year, US business paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers from noise.”
OSHA also notes that “it’s impossible to put a number on the human toll of hearing loss,” which is why it is important to take the steps to protect your hearing – especially if your employer does not. This is even more important in industries that are not obviously loud, like mining or construction. Certain occupations do pose hazards to your hearing health, such as dentistry (the high-pitched whirring of dental tools) and hair styling (constant exposure to the sound of hair dryers).
How to Protect Your Hearing on the Job
Regardless of your profession, it is important to pay attention to noise levels on the job. Look for a free app for your smartphone that measures decibels in your environment. Pay attention to these sound levels while at work. Hearing specialists recommend no more than 85 decibels in an eight-hour work day. If sounds are louder than 85 decibels, then the amount of exposure time lessens. To put this in context, the running engine of a construction vehicle clocks in at about 85 decibels.
Another way to gauge sound levels in your workplace is by conversation. If you have to shout to hear someone who is about arm’s length away from you, then your workplace is too loud.
The best mode of protection is custom ear protection, whether it is earplugs or over the ear headphones. In most inherently loud industries, employers are required by law to provide hearing protection. Employers are also required to monitor the sound levels produced by equipment on the job and replace malfunctioning equipment that may produce louder-than-normal sounds.
Commit to an Annual Hearing Test
On your end, an important step toward ensuring your hearing health is monitoring your own hearing abilities. The best way to do this is to schedule an annual hearing test. Think of it like an annual eye exam or a physical. Annual hearing tests record your hearing abilities by year, and if there are obvious changes, your hearing specialist will be able to identify problems right away.
By addressing hearing loss early on, you will be in a better position to ensure your best hearing health. To schedule a hearing test, contact us at Custom Hearing Solutions today.