Workplace hearing protection programs typically focus on individuals with normal hearing. But what about workers who already suffer from some level of hearing loss? Even in quiet environments, workers with hearing loss face a number of challenges, including difficulty communicating with colleagues and problems with differentiating important sounds above background noises.
The concept that loud machines cause hearing damage with prolonged exposure is not a new concept. However, it’s rare to find a situation nowadays where the effects of machinery in a given activity or function are seen affecting a population without any protection involved. One such study was done in Brazil and published in 2014.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) an average of 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to dangerous levels of noise in the workplace. Considering that approximately $242 million is spent each year on workers’ compensation for disability due to hearing loss, it is imperative that companies take a proactive approach to preventing hearing problems. Ongoing exposure to noise levels that exceed 85 dB is able to cause substantial hearing damage. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends that workers are not exposed to noise levels that exceed 85 dB for extended periods of time.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) about 30 million people are exposed to noise a year on the job, and it’s been one of the biggest concerns in the US for nearly 3 decades. In fact, there are quite a few high-noise environments where workers are exposed to harmful levels of noise.
While we’re typically used to thinking of mining, power plants and heavy vehicles as key environments, there are other jobs that can damage hearing as well. For example, if you operate a lawn mower, work at a night club, work at an airport on the ground or even as a shooting range marshal, you’re exposing your ears to 107dB of noise—to as high as 140dB.
Since hearing loss occurs at around 85dB, occupational hearing loss is proven to be the responsibility of the employer, it’s important to understand how it happens, the impact it has on workers—and your bottom line, and what you can do about it.