Could your job be causing hearing impairments? Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss. Worrying about your ability to hear is a normal response for anyone working in a high-noise profession.The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 30 million employees are subjected to unsafe noise at work and an additional 9 million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents such as metals and solvents.Work-related hearing safety is best addressed with factual information and an open discussion between employers and staff. Staff should educate themselves about the risks.
Risk of hearing loss should be reduced to the greatest extent possible in any job. Below is a starter list of especially noisy careers.
Miners – Reported by the Center for Disease Control, 49% of male miners are expected to have a hearing disability by age 50 – versus 9% of the general population – rising to 70 percent by age 60.
DJs, Bartenders and Nightclub Staff – Absolutely everyone that works at a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the performers. In a managed study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in popular nightclubs. The average sound level for a standard night out was 96 decibels which is above the noise level at which employers are required to provide ear protection. The study came to the conclusion that DJs are at considerable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and sound exposure in nightclubs routinely exceeds safe levels.
Construction Workers – The second highest number of permanent hearing losses sustained on the job is among construction workers. Equipment used in construction regularly generates noise levels of 90 decibels or greater. A WA State examination of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noises exceeding 85 decibels during 70% of their shifts, construction workers only wore hearing protectors 20 percent of the time (or less).
Band & Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Top volumes were 130 decibels in the brass and percussion sections of the orchestra. A different Swedish research project revealed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses higher than that predicted for their ages.
Airport Staff – The noise of an airplane engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with sound levels at a shocking 140 decibels.
Firefighters and Paramedics – All those sirens squealing accumulate over time. Several studies have investigated the frequency of hearing impairments in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most finding that firefighters experienced accelerated hearing damage compared to the general public of similar age.
Military – Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the leading disability for United States military personnel. As stated by the Deafness Research Foundation, in excess of 65% of returning combat troops from Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control website states that 48% of plumbers reported that they had a perceived hearing loss.
Manufacturing – Manufacturing workers constitute the greatest numbers of permanent hearing losses sustained on the job. Manufacturing industries regularly expose employees to machinery and equipment which generates over 90 decibels of noise for extended period of time.
Chemicals Industry – Exposure to certain chemical compounds (especially those containing lead, toluene, n-butyl alcohol and carbon monoxide) has been known to cause hearing loss by itself. These specific chemicals now known to combine with noise resulting in increased hearing loss.