Hearing loss is a common and unfortunate consequence of working in certain professions. The constant exposure to loud noises in various job settings poses a significant risk to one’s auditory health. However, by understanding these risks and implementing preventive measures, employers can protect their workers from work-related hearing damage and loss.
In this blog, we’ll discuss high-risk occupations where hearing loss is most common and explore five strategies to prevent work-related hearing loss.
What Are High-Risk Occupations for Hearing Loss?
Several professions carry an inherent risk of work-related hearing loss due to consistent exposure to loud noises. Some of these occupations include:
- Construction Workers: Operating heavy machinery, power tools, and working in noisy environments exposes them to high decibel levels regularly.
- Manufacturing and Factory Workers: Assembly lines and machinery generate continuous loud noises, contributing to potential hearing damage.
- Musicians and DJs: Regular exposure to amplified music during performances or rehearsals poses a risk to their hearing health.
- Airport Ground Staff: Proximity to aircraft engines, ground operations, and noisy equipment exposes them to high sound levels.
- Lumberjacks and Loggers: The continuous operation of chainsaws and heavy machinery produces sound levels well above the safe threshold for human ears.
- Railway Workers: The constant proximity to moving trains, loud engines, horns, and heavy machinery generates noise levels that can damage railways workers’ hearing over time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repeated exposure to sounds that are 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) or higher are associated with permanent hearing loss as well as symptoms like tinnitus (ringing in the ears), high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. The Hearing Center of Excellence says noises in the 85-100 dBA range include a hair dryer, blender, power lawn mower, forklift, and subway train.
How Can People in High-Risk Occupations Reduce their Risk of Hearing Loss?
Embrace Protective Gear
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as earplugs or earmuffs, acts as a shield against excessive noise. It’s essential to select the right gear and wear it consistently while in noisy environments. Properly fitted PPE can significantly reduce the impact of loud noises on your hearing.
Monitor and Limit Exposure
Awareness is key. Stay vigilant about the noise levels in your workplace. Utilize sound measuring devices or smartphone apps to assess decibel levels. If the noise exceeds safe levels (around 85 dBA), take proactive steps like using ear protection or relocating to quieter areas when possible.
Take Periodic Breaks
Continuous exposure to loud noises can gradually lead to hearing damage. Incorporate regular breaks from noisy environments. These intervals allow your ears to rest and recover from the strain, reducing the risk of long-term damage. Utilize this time away from noise to give your auditory system a chance to recuperate.
Educate and Train
Employers play a pivotal role in safeguarding their employees’ hearing health. Providing educational sessions and training on the risks of noise-induced hearing loss, proper usage of PPE, and noise reduction practices empowers workers to take proactive measures to protect their hearing.
Prioritize Regular Hearing Check-ups
Routine hearing assessments are crucial, particularly for individuals in high-risk noise environments. Annual or bi-annual hearing tests can detect early signs of hearing loss, enabling timely intervention and management.
What Are the Early Symptoms of Hearing Damage or Loss?
Recognizing the early symptoms of hearing damage or loss is extremely important to reduce the risk of further damage and loss. Here are some common signs that may indicate hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud noises:
- Difficulty Hearing Speech: Struggling to understand speech, especially in noisy environments or when multiple people are talking, can be an early sign of hearing loss. You might find yourself frequently asking others to repeat themselves or misunderstanding conversations.
- Ringing or Buzzing Sensation in the Ears: Experiencing persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other similar sounds in your ears, a condition known as tinnitus, can indicate potential damage to your auditory system. This sensation might occur on and off, or constantly.
- Muffled or Dull Sounds: Sounds may seem muffled or less clear than they used to be. You might notice a decrease in the clarity and sharpness of everyday sounds, making it challenging to distinguish certain sounds or words.
- Difficulty Hearing High-Pitched Sounds: Struggling to hear high-pitched sounds, such as doorbells, alarms, or the chirping of birds, can indicate damage to the higher frequencies of your hearing.
- Sensitivity to Loud Sounds: Becoming overly sensitive to loud noises or feeling discomfort in response to moderately loud sounds is another sign of potential hearing damage. Everyday noises may suddenly feel overwhelming or painful.
- Fatigue or Strain from Listening: Constantly straining to hear or understand conversations, especially in noisy environments, can lead to increased fatigue and stress. You might feel mentally exhausted from the effort of trying to hear clearly.
Contact Our Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Lawyers if You Experience Work-Related Hearing Loss
Losing some, most, or all of your hearing due to work-related exposure to loud noises is devastating. Thankfully, work-related hearing loss is covered by workers’ compensation in Oklahoma.
If you or a loved one suffered from hearing loss on the job, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits, and our experienced Oklahoma workers’ compensation attorneys want to help you get them. Contact the legal team at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers today for a free case review. It’s our goal to get you maximum benefits for such a devastating loss.