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Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012

Hearing Loss at Work

Man with hearing protection keeps his hearing safe at work.

Hearing loss at work can be caused by harmful noise levels, explosions, injury or even from exposure to dangerous chemicals. Preserving hearing in all these situations can be as simple as wearing hearing protection.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise on the job and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents such as solvents and metals.”

Any occupation can include factors that risk hearing, but some jobs have higher risk due to exposure of dangerous conditions. Loud equipment is one of the top ways workers can injure their hearing on the job. Not only is machinery in manufacturing dangerous, but also transportation equipment and tools of the trade that might not be obvious, like a hairdresser's hairdryer. Workers who don't use hearing protection in these situations are more likely to suffer hearing loss. Hearing loss is a condition which can interfere with social interactions, physical health, and has monetary costs for the individual--who might make less due to hearing loss. Businesses have also been shown to be affected by employee hearing loss in the form of costly mistakes and misunderstandings. The cost of hearing loss for the military, government, and individuals could run into the billions each year. The personal cost can be even more devastating.

Inside the ear are small, delicate hairs that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Injury to these hair cells comes from exposure, sudden or prolonged, to loud noises. This can result in temporary and permanent hearing loss, unless hearing protection is used.

Hearing loss has been shown to decrease self-esteem, cause feelings of isolation, disrupt relationships, lower income, and has recently been linked to higher incidents of Alzheimer’s and dementia. There is also extra-auditory health effects, according to a resource education guide put out by 3M. Workers consistently exposed to loud noise tend to have more hypertension, sleeplessness, and higher irritability. All of these problems can be avoided by using hearing protection to cover sound or by an employer limiting noise from machines or equipment.

Hearing loss is the number one self-reported and one of the most common risk factors for American workers.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 100% preventable, so it's important employers practice and workers demand safe hearing conditions within the workplace either by masking sounds from machines or by wearing properly fitted hearing protection. Employees can make a difference by talking to their employer about the costs of hearing loss and the long term impact on employees. They can also make a point to ask for hearing health coverage in their health benefits package.

If you think you’ve already experienced dangerous sound levels and want to find out if you have damaged hearing, you should visit a hearing specialist, an audiologist or ENT. Hearing loss should be found and dealt with before it spirals into other issues like depression and brain atrophy.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

©2011. American Hearing Aid Associates 225 Wilmington - West Chester Pike, Suite 300 Chadds Ford, PA 19317888.575.2511
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