Do you find yourself concerned about hearing damage from excessive noise levels on the job? Hearing loss has lots of root causes, but the most common continues to be noise-induced hearing loss. Thinking about your ability to hear is a normal response for anyone working at a high-noise occupation.The Centers for Disease Control reports that 30 million workers are subjected to harmful noise at work and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents such as solvents and metals.The most important thing that you can do is to educate yourself about the risks of noise and have an open discussion with your company.
All employees should evaluate their own work environments for high-noise levels, especially anyone in the following job roles.
- Manufacturing – Manufacturing jobs constitute the largest numbers of permanent hearing losses suffered on the job. Manufacturing positions regularly expose workers to equipment and machinery which produces over 90 decibels of noise.
- Construction Workers – Construction workers rank second highest for permanent hearing losses suffered in the workplace. Construction equipment regularly exposes staff to heavy machinery which operates at over 90 decibels. A WA State study of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noises exceeding 85 decibels during 70 percent of their workshifts, construction workers only wore hearing protectors 20% of the time.
- Chemicals Industry – Exposure to certain chemical substances has been connected to hearing loss by itself. These specific compounds now known to combine synergistically with noise to cause increased hearing loss.
- Motorcycle Courier – A study of motorcycle noise under various road conditions at speeds between 45 mph to 65 documented that the sound measured varied from 70 decibels to 128 decibels.
- DJs and Nightclub Staff – Absolutely everyone that works in a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a managed study, sound levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average sound level for a standard session was 96 decibels which is over the noise level at which the provision of hearing protection is mandatory for employers in industry. The research came to the conclusion that DJs are at sizeable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs routinely surpasses safe levels.
- Orchestra & Band – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both performances and rehearsals found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections of the orchestra. A different Swedish study showed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians – 42 percent – had hearing losses higher than that normal for their ages.
- Airport Staff – The noise of a jet engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with sound levels at a shocking 140 decibels.
- Firefighters and Paramedics – All of the sirens squealing accumulate over time. Several studies have explored the prevalence of hearing disabilities in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most finding that firefighters suffer accelerated hearing loss relative to the general public of the same age.
- Military – The top disability among US military personnel is noise-induced hearing loss. As stated by the Deafness Research Foundation, over 65% of combat troops returning from Afghanistan are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss.