Taking precautions regarding noise in the workplace may help workers prevent occupational hearing loss. One of the most common chronic physical conditions affecting adults in the U.S., hearing difficulties often result from work-related exposures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that occupational causes account for approximately 24% of the hearing difficulty among the working population in the United States.
The Causes of Occupational Hearing Loss
Work-related hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud noise levels on the job. At levels of 85 decibels or higher, noise becomes hazardous and may cause damage to the structures and nerve fibers within the inner ear.
Hearing injuries may result from frequent exposure to moderately loud or loud noise over an extended period, like the workplace noise experienced by workers on construction sites or concert venues. Noise-induced hearing loss may also occur due to one-time exposure to a significantly high sound level. For example, a law enforcement officer may suffer occupational hearing loss as a result of having a weapon fired too close.
Block the Noise
Workers who can reasonably expect to experience exposure to loud noise in the workplace, like airport employees, factory workers, and construction workers, may take precautions to help block out some of the noise. Wearing protective earmuffs or earplugs while in noisy areas or while otherwise exposed may help people reduce the risk of such noise causing damage to their inner ears, and thus, suffering occupational hearing loss.
Turn Down the Sound
To limit their exposure to dangerous noise levels, workers may be able to turn down the sound in their work areas. Many tools and equipment include features that limit noise output. In addition to making use of quieter-operating tools, employers may also implement other noise-reducing engineering controls, such as sound-absorbing tile, to help keep workers safe.
Limit Exposure Time
Workers may benefit from limiting the time they spend in noisy work environments. To this end, they may leave the area when coworkers use particularly loud tools or equipment and take their breaks in quiet areas away from the noise sources. Employers may help their workers limit exposure to hazardous noise levels by rotating them on jobs or tasks, regulating the time employees spend in potentially dangerous areas.