Occupational Hearing Hazards

Occupational Hearing Hazards

Work can be noisy at times, primarily if you work in specific industries. While you might complain about it occasionally to your coworkers, it could be damaging to your ears. Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. It’s important to remember that your boss could be breaking the law if unaddressed. 

Loud sounds at work

According to hearing experts, if you are continually exposed to sounds that are at 85 decibels for eight hours, this is enough to cause hearing loss. 

As the sound grows, it takes less time to damage hearing. Although 8 hours might seem like a long time, to demonstrate where you might encounter the sound scenario above, imagine standing next to an idling truck (85db) for the whole day at a construction site. It only takes one day of exposure to permanently damage your hearing at work. Those in the manufacturing industries are also at risk as heavy machinery is even louder. 

A typical rock concert is up to 120 dB, dangerous for both performers and spectators. And it’s not just rockers who need to be careful – professional and amateur musicians also need to be careful. In Norway, a study conducted in a classical orchestra found that 43.6% of the musicians within that orchestra experienced a form of hearing loss. 

Let’s not forget industries like farming and education, areas people wouldn’t normally associate with having a high risk of hearing loss. Working with large machines means that farming is one of the most dangerous industries for hearing loss, and in schools, the sound of 30 children’s voices at top volume is enough to send ears ringing all around. 

How hearing loss affects you at work

Hearing loss is not just a nuisance at work. Instead, it could affect your performance earning power and endanger your safety. 

Almost any job you can think of expects you to work closely in teams and liaise through face-to-face and technological means. When information is not passed around as efficiently (due to difficulties in receiving that information), individual performance drops, and it doesn’t bode well for that person’s future at the company. 

It could also become a safety issue to have hearing loss, especially working with heavy machines. If you can’t hear a coworker’s words of warning, this could lead to more accidents. Construction and farmworkers are especially at risk. 

Finally, some recent studies show that overall earning power is also diminished. Hearing loss derives less job satisfaction and feels unconnected socially to their peers. 

Your rights when it comes to work hearing hazards 

With the rise in safety and health problems in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was started in 1971 to enforce standards to protect workers from harm. The OSHA guidelines affirm that employers must foster a work environment that won’t cause death or serious physical harm to their employees. Through strict standards set by this federal body, an average of $242 million is paid annually on workers’ compensation due to hearing loss.

As an employee, you are entitled to:

  1. Learn about the likely workplace hazards in your job.
  2. Look at previous records of employees who have developed hearing loss from working for the company.
  3. Ask OSHA to inspect your workplace if you think the noise levels constitute a health hazard, and your employer is doing little to fix the issue.

Ways in which your employer can reduce noise levels

Could your employer be doing more to reduce noise in your workplace? Employers can attack noise levels on two fronts: engineering changes and administrative means.  

Engineering controls: Your manager needs to maintain any loudness to run quietly as possible. Businesses could also switch to quieter technology, dampen sound through various materials, or even move the source noise from where employers work.

Administrative controls: Your employer can also rearrange times and staff to reduce employer exposure to noise. When employees are off work overnight, machinery could be run. Or they could limit employee exposure to machinery. Finally, your employer could provide respite areas so others can take a break from the noise. These regular noise breaks have been shown to reduce hearing damage.

Are you suffering from work-related hearing loss and are concerned about your job? Hearing aids can help you regain your edge. Contact us at Thoreya Audiology for a consultation.

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