Audiologist Doing A Hearing Test

Occupational Hearing Hazards

How noisy is your job? If you are a construction or night club worker, the answer is likely to be very noisy. A recent article about the 10 noisiest jobs reveals some surprising facts about how noisy some jobs really are. Aside from the jobs mentioned above, the list also featured school teachers, motorcycle couriers and farm workers. Your job may be noisier than you first realized.

This noise might be a persistent source of low-level grumbling between you and your work colleagues, but the effects could be more damaging than you think. Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. This is not only dangerous, it could also be breaking the law.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government body which was created to ensure safe working conditions in this country by setting standards that employers must meet by law, as well as training and assistance. Employers failing to meet these standards has resulted in an average of $242 million being spent annually on workers’ compensation due to exposure to hearing loss.


Loud workplaces can damage your hearing

Workplace noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), a permanent hearing loss for which there is no known cure. It usually starts with tinnitus, a ringing in the ear that workers might notice after working a shift. Over the years, this might be followed by the need to watch TV on louder settings than your friends or family, or a difficulty in hearing your friends when engaged in conversation in noisy restaurants and cafes.

There are also affects you could feel while on the job. Many jobs require you to work closely in teams, communicating face-to-face, on the phone and via email. When information is not passed around as efficiently (due to difficulties in receiving that information) then team performance drops. Those with hearing loss also make less money, are less satisfied at work, and routinely feel less socially connected to their peers. Hearing loss at work could also become a safety issue–especially if you are working with heavy machinery. The inability to hear colleagues could lead to more accidents. Construction and farm workers are especially vulnerable here. Finally, the health of the individual can suffer. Hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of dementia and depression.


Know your rights

The OSHA guidelines state that employers have a responsibility to create a work environment which isn’t ‘likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees’.

As an employee, you have the right to:

  1. Receive information and training about workplace hazards about workplace hazards. If the environment is too loud, you have the right to know about the damaging effects of the noise.
  2. Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses of anyone else who has developed hearing loss as a direct result of working for the company.
  3. File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect your workplace if you believe the workplace noise is a health hazard and your employer is doing nothing to address it, all without fear of workplace reprisals.

If you work in construction, the noise limits become more stringent and codified. If you are exposed to 90db (about the level of a motorcycle engine), this exposure should be limited to 8 hours a day. But if the noise reaches 105db (the sound of a Boeing 707) then this noise should be limited to just an hour a day. If the employer can’t guarantee these limits, then hearing protection must be provided for free to the employee.


What to look for from your employer

There are two broad methods employers can use to make sure they are meeting guidelines. Have a look to see if there is anything else your boss can do to make your workplace hearing-safe:

The first is Engineering controls. This includes regular maintenance of noisy equipment so that it is as quiet as possible. Think about the shrieks of metal machinery that hasn’t been oiled in a while, and you will get an idea of what I mean. Employers could also research and implement quieter tools and machines, install sound dampening between the noise source and the employee, or even physically move the noise sources as far away from employees as possible.

Your employer could also look at Administrative controls. This is the rearranging of times, places and manpower to minimize employer exposure to noise. Maybe noise sources can be run overnight when employees are off work. Or if an employee is required to be present to work machinery, that time should be limited. Finally, your employer could provide quiet zones where employees can take a respite from the noise. providing regular noise breaks has been proven to lower the risk of hearing damage.


To schedule a comprehensive hearing exam, contact Able Hearing

If you are concerned that noise in your workplace could be having a detrimental effect on your hearing, having a thorough hearing exam should be your first course of action, and Able Hearing is here to help. We can provide you with a detailed picture of your current hearing health, guide you towards the best treatment if hearing loss is found, and help you find the best hearing protection to keep your ears safe on the job. Make your appointment today.