Hidden Occupational Hearing Risks

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Hidden Occupational Hearing Risks

Man at work with hearing protection

Many occupations can be detrimental to one’s hearing ability. In fact, hearing loss is the most common work-related injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million Americans are exposed to high noise levels while they are at work, and an estimated $242 million is spent yearly on worker’s compensation for hearing loss. You are probably familiar with jobs that entail noise such as mining, manufacturing, carpentry, and music, but there might be a few jobs that you did not know posed a risk to your hearing ability.

Does Your Job Put You At Risk?

If your job consists of noise that exceeds 60 decibels, which is a normal conversation, then you may be at risk. The jobs are not always obvious. Here are few that may surprise you:

  • Flight crew. It is not uncommon for a flight crew to experience up to 130 decibels of noise during takeoff. This amount of volume is loud enough to rupture an eardrum. Prolonged exposure to noise above 100dB can cause permanent hearing damage.
  • Physical education teacher. When you combine bells ringing, lockers slamming, loud announcements, and other noise found in a school, you may be exposing yourself to 125dB of sound.
  • Dentist. That sweet sound of a dental drill that we all know and love! Seriously, the noise that drill produces exceeds 115dB which is annoying for a patient, and possibly harmful to a dentist who listens to it for prolonged periods of time.
  • Hairdresser. Hair dryers, electric massagers, electric shavers, and hair clippers can all pose a threat to one’s hearing. The majority of hairdressing noise can reach 90-95dB.
  • Gardener. Although this occupation is relatively quiet, it does have its moments. A lawnmower runs at 100dB, which means it is only safe to run a mower for 15 minutes before risking hearing loss. A trimmer can reach 100dB, and a leaf blower can hit 95dB. Hearing damage while gardening is not limited to sounds either, as is the case in this study involving yucca plants.

What You Can Do

Speak to your human resources (HR) department at work regarding exposure to loud noises. Your employer should make changes to reduce your exposure such as:

  • Making a switch to quieter equipment if possible.
  • Your employer should limit your exposure to loud noise for extended periods of time.
  • Your company should provide hearing protection such as ear muffs and ear plugs and make sure you wear the hearing protection given to you.

Hearing problems caused by the workplace are too common. If you suspect a hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional today. Also, contact your HR department at work to help in making your work environment safer by investigating ways to bring about noise reduction for all employees. Know the noise levels, use products with limited noise output, and reduce your exposure to loud sounds. Wear hearing protection whenever possible and give your ears a rest when you get the chance. Don’t forget that just because your job is typically not loud, there may be hidden noises that can rob you of your hearing ability.

 

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