As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports, over 22 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work. No matter the industry, hearing loss is the most common workplace injury. While you may think that those who work in the construction, aviation, or music industries are the most susceptible to hearing loss, research has shown that it is individuals who work in places with moderate noise experience the highest level of hearing loss. Why is this? Workers in industries with moderate noise are not as likely to wear hearing protection than those who work in environments with higher noise levels.
No matter the environment, noise-induced hearing loss can be debilitating and costly. According to the United States Department of Labor, businesses spend nearly 242 million dollars a year on hearing loss claims.
How does noise-related hearing loss occur?
When loud sounds occur, the fine hair cells in the inner ear to temporarily flatten. The result is a loss in hearing frequencies, which can become permanent depending on the level of noise and length of exposure. Frequent exposure to moderate-to-high noises can cause the hair in the inner ear to be irreversibly damaged. Additionally, exposure to moderate-to-high noises for long periods of time can result in a condition called tinnitus, where the individual experiences a frequent ringing sound in the ear.
There are two ways that noise-induced hearing loss can occur: a sudden loud trauma or gradually over time. While individuals do experience hearing loss through a sudden noise, like an explosion, most often hearing loss occurs gradually. Because people usually don’t experience the symptoms of hearing loss until after the damage has occurred, workplace-induced hearing loss can be harder to detect.
How can you protect yourself from work related hearing loss?
There are a few things you can do to prevent hearing loss. If you work in an environment where your hearing is at risk, you should talk to your employer to see if there are programs in place to protect your hearing. If your employer provides you with earmuffs or earplugs, you should wear them consistently to protect your hearing, especially if you work around loud equipment or noise. Additionally, you can purchase earplugs at your local pharmacy, and earmuffs can be purchased at a sporting goods store. No matter what you choose, the most important thing is consistency. If you experience dangerously high noise levels while at work, don’t be afraid to notify your supervisor, and be sure you have your protection on hand.
Quality hearing care no matter your level of hearing loss
At Beltone Audiology, we know that hearing loss can be disabling, no matter the industry you work in. By taking the precautions listed above, as well as scheduling an annual hearing test, you can maintain your level of hearing for years to come. It is recommended that adults over the age of 55 get their hearing checked annually. To schedule a hearing test with a team of hearing care professionals, contact Beltone Audiology today.