Occupational Hearing Hazards

Occupational Hearing Hazards

One of the most common medical disorders in the US is hearing loss, affecting one-third of individuals over the age of 65 and 50 percent of individuals over 75. While aging is one leading cause of hearing loss, exposure to loud noise is the second biggest cause, and it is entirely preventable.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs either as a one-time incident (gunshot, blast, etc.) or over the long term, such as regular exposure to loud in occupational environments. In this country, 60 % of the working population has some hearing loss, meaning over half of everyone you have ever worked with has had a degree of hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, unlike other types of hearing loss. Here, we will look at some of the typical noise hazards we encounter in our jobs. 

Occupational hearing hazards

Hearing loss can result from sounds over 80 decibels ( dB). You can experience damage if sounds above this level persist for even a short period. OSHA has mandated that during an 8-hour workday, a worker can only be exposed to a maximum of 90dB. Employers are expected to provide regular hearing checks and hearing protection to their employees during these conditions of high noise. 

The loudest jobs around

This is a non-exhaustive list of some common occupations which can be dangerous for your hearing health. Some on the list may surprise you. 

  • Teacher: Schools are noisy places, and studies have noise levels that can go up to 105 dB. Working with young children involves listening to their higher-frequency sounds, which more easily cause hearing harm.
  • Hairdresser: Although hair styling is generally considered one of the least stressful occupations, regular exposure to hairdryers, clocking in at 85 dB, can cause serious harm after eight hours. Fortunately, hairdryers are used in brief bursts, but over time, damage can accumulate. 
  • Construction worker: A bulldozer that is idling is loud enough at 85 dB to cause hearing loss in eight hours.
  • Manufacturing worker:  Those who work in factories have to contend with grinding machines and their coworkers’ shouts for hours on end. 
  • Agricultural worker/gardener: It might seem idyllic to work in a garden, but don’t forget that lawn mowers and leaf blowers can be noisy. Likewise, farmers are routinely exposed to the 112 dB of tractors, and studies have shown that 25 percent of male farmers suffer hearing loss by the age of 30.
  • Air traffic controllers: Air traffic controllers and ground control personnel are subject to the loudest noise out there. Most aircraft engines clock in at 140 dB, with some jet aircrafts reaching as high as 190 dB (which causes immediate hearing damage). Custom ear protection is given to most air traffic controllers and ground personnel.

How to protect yourself

If you are regularly prone to excessive noise in your role, make sure you follow the employer’s instructions for safe ear wear. 

Consider getting custom-fitted ear protection if your company does not provide it. Created from molds of your ear canals, custom-fit hearing protection provides superior noise protection and comfort when wearing for long periods. These provide you with protection against the higher decibels that can cause long-term hearing loss and allows you access to the sounds you need to hear to be useful at work. 

Also, to create a baseline for your hearing ability, it is crucial to take annual hearing tests. Contact us if you are worried about your hearing ability. We provide extensive hearing tests and fittings for hearing aids, and our team is ready to help you protect and treat your hearing loss.