How To Prevent Occupational Hearing Loss
If you work in an environment that poses a risk to your hearing, it is essential to understand the dangers of occupational hearing loss and take steps to protect yourself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), occupational hearing loss is the most common workplace health risk in the U.S., with approximately 22 million workers affected.
Ideally, your employer should take responsibility for your hearing protection, but it's also important to be proactive in preventing permanent hearing loss. Below are some examples of high-risk jobs and the necessary precautions to take:
Manufacturers often prioritize efficiency and productivity when selecting equipment for their plants, but neglect to consider the noise level of the machinery. Workers who are concerned about noise levels should bring their own ear protection to wear on the factory floor if none is provided. Additionally, employees should take opportunities to advocate for hearing protection, such as recommending quieter machinery through programs like "Buy Quiet" or requesting that employers provide hearing protectors.
The hammer drill is a frequent tool used on construction sites, but it emits sounds measuring 115 decibels. Anything over 85 decibels puts individuals nearby at risk for permanent hearing damage. Studies indicate that many common carpentry tools are hazardously loud, so it is crucial for those working on job sites with these types of tools to take their hearing health seriously and invest in high-quality hearing protection.
Professional musicians, production technicians, DJs, and even servers and bartenders working in nightclubs are at risk for hearing damage due to excessive noise from amplification systems. The typical noise level in a club is above 100 decibels. This may not cause permanent damage for occasional concert-goers, but it can be a problem for employees who work in that environment on a regular basis. Using small, discreet earplugs designed specifically for musicians can reduce the harmful effects of the noise.
Airport employees who work outdoors must be diligent about protecting their hearing, as the sound of a jet engine, measured at 140 decibels, is one of the most significant auditory hazards in any workplace. Airports, recognizing the risk, typically provide hearing protection. However, if you work in the aviation industry, it is recommended to schedule regular hearing screenings to ensure that the protective measures are sufficient.