Work-related hearing loss can be detrimental to a work environment and negatively impact employee’s personal health, but luckily it is preventable when safety measures are taken. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated the most common work-related illness in the U.S. is hearing loss. 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise and 10 million workers are subjected to hearing-risk-related chemicals each year. Unlike what some might assume, hearing loss exposure adversely affects workers in every industry.
The CDC found that 1 in 4 hearing impaired employees suffer from hearing damage because of noise exposure they experienced at the workplace. Noise induced hearing loss occurs in one or both ears from a constant or single exposure to loud sounds 80dB or above, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
Exposure to ototoxic chemicals can also cause hearing loss. Indicated by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), ototoxic chemicals can enter the bloodstream by being ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Once in the body, the ototoxic chemicals enter the blood stream and nerve endings. As a result, the inner ear containing nerves and the cochlear are then damaged, creating a domino effect, harming the hair cells that allow us to hear. Warned by the CDC, ototoxic chemicals and jobs that may contain them include…
- Mercury: automotive (car parts), electrician (light bulbs and wiring), medical (equipment), and dental (supplies for fillings)
- Trichloroethylene: dry cleaning employees (dry clean fabrics)
- Lead: artists (materials), police officers (ammunition), auto repairers (car parts)
- Asphyxiants (carbon monoxide): Occupations that utilize fireplaces, charcoal grills, marine engines, forklift, propane-powered heaters, and power washers.
When employees are experiencing hearing loss, it impairs their work productivity and concentrations. Work environments not only require good communication to complete tasks efficiently, but also the ability to multitask different sound ques and noise signals, like a telephone ringing or a safety warning signal. According to Starkey Hearing Technologies, hearing loss can cause work fatigue, which strains the ability to focus and retain information.
Ear protection’s primary function is to reduce exposure to loud noises, while also allowing you to hear what is going on around you. Our hearing health care providers recommend wearing hearing protection if your occupation exposes you to loud environments. If you work in a professional office setting, ear plugs are available as In-The-Canal (ITC). Another suggestion is to take small breaks from the loud noise when necessary, like stepping away for a small walk or lunch. For more information on how to protect your hearing at the workplace, call 888-333-9730!